Sophomore Demetrius Jones started the contest but was replaced late in the second quarter after fumbling twice. Junior Evan Sharpley came on in relief and led the Irish to their only three points of the game. But Sharpley was sacked seven times, most of them because of breakdowns along the offensive line. Even freshman Jimmy Clausen saw action late in the fourth quarter, whose right elbow was healthy enough to attempt six passes.
After all was said and done, there were questions than answers at quarterback. And Weis will have to find an answer soon. Next Saturday night, Notre Dame will travel to State College, PA to take on Penn State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 PM in Happy Valley and over 100,000 fans will be in attendance. It'll be quite an atmosphere for a first-year quarterback to make a road debut.
After Saturday's disastrous offensive performance, where the Irish mustered just three points and 122 total yards, Weis is doing away with all the hush-hush and will announce a starter at his Tuesday afternoon press conference. Before the Yellow Jackets game, the Notre Dame head coach's plan was not to let on who'll the starter. After the beating the Irish took on Saturday, there's no more reason to be secretive.
"At this stage right now, the team needs a staple," Weis said. "When you lose 33-3, I think right now we have to rally the troops and circle the wagons and all those other clichés you use in sports. We have to do that now."
Clausen entered the Georgia Tech contest in the fourth quarter. The freshman completed 4-of-6 passes for 34 yards. Clausen underwent a procedure in the off-season on his right elbow. When fall camp started on August 6th, Weis said the freshman quarterback was not 100 percent. But on Saturday, Clausen was back to full health. But the freshman didn't receive a lot of reps in training camp because he was working his way back. Weis had no doubts Clausen would see the field at some point this year and now the freshman is one of the three contenders to start at Penn State.
"There's no doubt I expected him to play this year or else I wouldn't use him," Weis said. "I certainly wouldn't have used him yesterday. On the flip side, it was a perfect opportunity to get him under fire and get him some snaps so when you do put him in, either next week or later, in a 0-0 game, you put him in there so it's not the first time."
Jones certainly had the roughest outing on Saturday. The Chicago, IL native started the contest but didn't make it to halftime. Weis had installed a run-heavy package for Jones to execute. Two fumbles, both of which led to field goals, did not help the sophomore's cause. Jones did lead the team in rushing with 28 yards on 12 attempts.
It wasn't his running that got people talking after the game. It was Jones' lack of pass attempts. The sophomore threw the ball only three times on Saturday, completing one to David Grimes for four yards. Jones said after the contest that the rollouts were not pass/run options but designed runs. This put the sophomore in a tough spot against an tough, aggressive Yellow Jackets defense and essentially made the Notre Dame attack one-dimensional.
"It's not like Demetrius is incapable of throwing the ball," Weis said. "He's not just running it on every play. But against this team, we felt like the best thing for us to try to do is to run the football, especially early in the game, not to play it safe and cautious but not to put the quarterback in a bind early in the game until everything got in control."
Sharpley put up better numbers than Jones, completing 10-fo-13 passes for 92 yards. But the junior signal caller was sacked seven times. Sharpley led the Irish on a 13 play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal by freshman Brandon Walker to cut the Georgia Tech lead to 19-3.
"Statistically, and sometimes stats are for losers, when you go 10-for-13 that usually means that some things were pretty positive," Weis said. "He came a yard or two away from the home run to (David) Grimes (on the 3rd quarter scoring drive). That was a good read. He laid it out there and it was pretty close to a home run. You never know that plays change a game. Maybe that changes the game."
On Tuesday, the quarterback drama will take another step forward with the announcement for the Penn State game.
***The quarterbacks sure didn't get a lot of help from the young offensive line, who showed their inexperience on Saturday. Notre Dame allowed nine sacks in the defeat. Time after time, Georgia Tech was able to get pressure on the Irish quarterback and thwart any Notre Dame offensive consistency. Weis was clear on Sunday that the Yellow Jackets didn't outnumber the offensive line with blitzes. The Irish head coach said Georgia Tech "whooped" his players up front.
"It isn't just about the players playing against one another," Weis said. "It's about handling the speed of the game. You can simulate it in practice but obviously they did a better job of than we did. They controlled the tempo with their defense versus our offense. If you can't go slug it out, sometimes it comes down to one-on-one match-ups. I'm going to have to figure it out and the offense is going to have to figure it out to make sure you don't have a setback like that because that's not going to be acceptable."
The speed wasn't the only problem for Notre Dame. Weis said the communication, on the entire team, wasn't up to par. The Irish head coach put the blame on the coaching staff for this snafu.
"There were some very clear, concise adjustments made that didn't manifest itself on the field," Weis said. "You can't sit there and point fingers at just the players when that happens. When you make an adjustment and it doesn't show up the way you made it, I've always been taught that whether you tell the guys or not, until they get it, you didn't tell them enough or they didn't get it. I told them that just doesn't cut it."
***Time of possession, remarkably, was in Notre Dame's favor. The Irish had the ball for 30:20 while Georgia Tech had it for 29:40. With all of Notre Dame's offensive problems and the Yellow Jackets' controlling the ground game with Tashard Choice's 196-yard performance, many would have thought Georgia Tech would have dominated the stat category. But three turnovers by the Irish quarterbacks and a down punting performance from Geoff Price gave the Yellow Jackets excellent field position all afternoon long. Georgia Tech's average field position was their own 42-yard line, in contrast to Notre Dame at their own 23-yard line.
"I felt that the offense hung the defense out to dry," Weis said. "That's how I felt. It felt like they were out there forever."
***Weis on preparation for the Yellow Jackets contest: "I clearly identified the issues going into the game we had to do to win. Obviously, identifying the problems was a lot easier than solving the problems. So I did not do a good job of solving the problems."