Notebook: Clausen Looks To Be Full Go

Tuesday afternoon, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis wasn't completely sure what he'd see from starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen at practice later on in the day. The freshman told him multiple times that a hip injury he sustained in the 33-19 loss to Purdue over the weekend was nothing, and that he'd be fine. Weis wanted to make sure before making any quarterback decisions.

Sounds like Clausen was right.

"Jimmy went through practice, did a fine job today," quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus said following practice.

The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Clausen left the game against the Boilermakers on two separate occasions in the third quarter, and the second time, he did not return. Before the injury, Clausen completed 18-of-26 passes for a career-high 169 yards and his first career touchdown. Weis said on Sunday, and reaffirmed on Tuesday, that if Clausen was healthy, he would likely be the starter this Saturday at UCLA.

Not that the offense changes, the Bruins can start preparing for Clausen and the Irish.

Junior Evan Sharpley filled in admirably for Clausen, nearly engineering a huge comeback from 26-7 down, in leading the Irish to what would've been their first win of the season. His performance was good enough to spark a quarterback controversy. Sharpley completed 16-of-26 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. The second scoring toss, a beautiful 25-yard pass to freshman Golden Tate, cut the lead to 26-19 with a shade under eight minutes to go.

***While playing for Lou Holtz, Powlus never wore a play-calling wristband. They didn't have them. As of last week, Clausen and Sharpley didn't have them either.

"Now they didn't have a security blanket, where they read No. 3, and they just read it; so they're not calling the play, they're just reading off the play," Weis explained of the maneuver. "So I don't think that makes you go through mental concentration when you're actually, okay, you got the play, now I'm giving it to you, now I'm thinking about what's going to happen on the play; whereas, you read it off, and sometimes they would go to the line of scrimmage, and they would still be looking at it again to see, okay, what's the play again?"

There was a little of that when the wristbands first came off, but everything seems to be going smoothly. The Irish passing attack looked way better than it had all season against Purdue. Taking the wristbands off was somewhat of a turning point according to Powlus.

"The wristbands are a crutch, no question, when you're learning the offense and getting used to doing it every play," Powlus said. "We were all spoiled with Brady (Quinn) who'd been running the offense for a few years and got to know the offense very well and didn't need it. With the new guys, we gave them the wristbands so we could keep the flow of practice moving nicely and the flow of the offense. It finally got to a point where they relied on it too much, it was time to take them off. What it made them do, it made them listen to what they were saying, versus just spitting the words out to be as quick as they can for the rest of the guys to hear. Now they have to think about it as they're saying it, and it got them to the point where they're beyond just saying a play but actually running a play and thinking it through as they're going."

"Midway through the first practice they were making progress," Powlus later said. "We're well beyond having to rely on a wrist band."

Being that he was a backup to Quinn for two seasons, Sharpley said the adjustment wasn't a problem at all.

"It really wasn't anything new for me, I was pretty comfortable with that already," he said.

***The Notre Dame offensive line has taken the brunt of the blame, and rightfully so, as to why the offense ranks at or near the bottom in every category nationally. But they appear to be getting better.

Two weeks ago against Michigan State, the Irish came into the game with minus-rushing yards for the season, but they went for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Spartans. Ranking last in the nation in quarterback sacks allowed, Michigan State, the nation's leader in sacks, had four, which was a huge step up for a program that surrendered 23 sacks through the first three games.

Last week at Purdue, the Irish line gave up only two sacks on 52 pass attempts, and Clausen and Sharpley combined to throw for 377 yards and three touchdowns.

"Now we have a couple games under our belt," said Sharpley, who was running for his life and sacked seven times in the season opener against Georgia Tech. "I think we've come with a pretty good scheme of protecting us, and as you can see, especially in the Purdue game, they've done a good job."

"I think being a certain distance into the season, we've seen some more looks, and now I guess we're better adapted to the speed of the game," sophomore left tackle Sam Young explained. "There is really no excuse frankly for the games earlier on in the year, but I think we did a good job and now we have that confidence in place to be able to go against UCLA and be productive."

Not that the numbers would be great, but Notre Dame's rushing stats are skewed because of its inability to protect the passer. The Irish have gained 471 yards on the ground through five games, but they've lost 319, 213 by way of sacks.

"We worked really hard at putting together that part of the game, and I think we were prepared a lot better than we were earlier in the season," junior guard Matt Carufel said about the Purdue game.

***Weis said at his press conference on Tuesday that receiver Golden Tate's scout team days are over for now. Following the Purdue game, he and classmate Duval Kamara showed they need to be big part of the offense against UCLA.

Tate caught three go-routes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Kamara had six catches for 68 yards and his first career score. Both were instrumental in Notre Dame's near comeback against the Boilermakers, and both are making significant strides in their first collegiate season.

"I think that they are making typical freshman mistakes, and they're making some plays like a freshman that would be atypical at times," receivers coach Rob Ianello explained. "I think there is a little bit of both in there. They're just trying to come to work and develop. They're very coachable. They're very eager to come out there and learn. There is no semblance of a rival in their vocabulary."

***Carufel replaced his injured classmate Dan Wenger in the starting lineup against Michigan State. He commented on finally earning significant game reps in the last two weeks.

"That's what it's all about," Carufel stated. "That's what I've been working towards for my whole time here is to get out on the field and get some meaningful reps. It felt good. It felt like I was back where I was supposed to be. I really got a taste of why I play the game."

As a freshman, Carufel logged just 2:41 of playing time, and lost a close position battle with Wenger for the starting job this fall. Top Stories