Sharpley Presents Strong Case

SOUTH BEND - There apparently wasn't enough evidence to justify Evan Sharpley as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame following his strong performance in the second half against Purdue. In his first 59 seconds of action on Saturday against No. 4 Boston College, the junior reserve from Marshall, Mich., has at the very least reopened the case.

As a matter of fact, it should be a unanimous jury.

However, head coach Charlie Weis is the only judge that counts, and it sounds like he weighs evidence from practice and evidence on game day on the same scale. So the seven-play, 79-yard drive Sharpley engineered on his first possession early in the third quarter, the aforementioned 59 seconds, all passes by the way to get Notre Dame on the board and within 20-7, holds the same amount of weight as the two-minute drill he ran in practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

Or the fact that before Sharpley entered the game, Notre Dame's stale and predictable offense had just 70 total yards with freshman Jimmy Clausen at the controls, finished with 222 total yards in the 27-14 loss when Sharpley took over.

"No, no, the game counts trust me, but so does every day in practice, especially when they're very close competitively," Weis explained.

If they're so close in practice, sounds like the choice should be game related then. If you go by that data, then it's Sharpley by a landslide.

Trailing 26-6, against Purdue, it was Sharpley that came off the bench in the second half and gave the Irish a shot in the arm, rallying the team to within 26-19 with just under eight minutes remaining. Notre Dame eventually fell, 33-19, but Sharpley completed 16-of-26 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Clausen that same day was 18-of-26 for 169 yards and one score, but the offense just didn't feel as alive as it did when Sharpley entered.

That was the same case against the Eagles (7-0), with the exception that Clausen wasn't playing well. The Westlake Village, Calif. product was just 7-of-20 passing for 60 yards and an interception. That pick coming on the first play of the third quarter that led to Boston College going up 20-0, and Clausen finding his way to the bench. Sharpley came in, instantly led the Irish to a score and finished 11-of-29 passing for 135 yards and the one touchdown. Not great numbers, but the most important thing is, the Irish (1-6) looked like they had a chance. An upset looked like it was brewing with three minutes remaining in the game and Sharpley found Robby Parris in the end zone for the second time in the game, cutting the score to 27-20, but a holding call wiped that off the board and erased all comeback chances.

"When I'm on the field, hopefully I'm giving our team the best chance to win," Sharpley said. "Hopefully I did that today a little bit."

You did Evan, you did. Maybe if you would've started the game, maybe your team wouldn't have been trying to dig itself out of its usual hole. The Irish are being outscored 56-17 in the first quarter, and 120-24 in the first half for the season. The play calling for Clausen seems to be swing passes, screens (kind of the same thing), short passes (more of the same) and handoffs. For Sharpley, things open up offensively, and he comes in and airs the football out. Notre Dame's offense ranks at the bottom or near it in every statistical category nationally, yet seems like it has a chance to score when Sharpley is under center.

On the season, Sharpley is 43-of-80 (53.8 percent) for 479 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. His efficiency rating is 111.42, compared to Clausen's 89.51, who is 81-of-141 for 618 yards and five interceptions to just one touchdown.

Clausen's situation isn't easy. A true freshman, basically thrown into the fire having to adjust to the speed of the game with an offense that had to replace seven starters from a season ago. Don't lose faith that the former prep phenom and nation's consensus top recruit from a year ago is not the future. But he isn't today, and doesn't give the Irish the best chance to win against USC on Saturday.

The main ingredient Weis has been using in determining the quarterback is accuracy. Clausen has Sharpley in that department, but lets sacrifice a bad pass or high throw here and there for the sake of overall production. From the sounds of it, Sharpley performs better on game day than in practice.

"That's a pretty fair statement because one of the reasons why you judge the whole big picture is accuracy on every play, and I think that Evan in the game is usually pretty accurate," Weis explained. "And I think if he's going to end up wanting to, he wants to be the guy, which I know he does, if he wants to move past Jimmy, which I know he does, it's got to be an everyday thing, it can't just be a game-day thing."

Since NBC isn't covering Irish practices, why isn't game day at least weighed heavier? Parris called Sharpley a gamer, and the signal-caller acknowledged that maybe there is something to the fact that he plays better when the country is watching.

"That's kind of how it looks I suppose, but hopefully I bring that same intensity to practice I do in a game," Sharpley said. "But a game is something different, it's very special."

Maybe even more special if and when he makes his first career start at home against the Trojans. Top Stories