QB Decision Set for Tuesday

The biggest question coming out of the 27-14 loss to Boston College was at the quarterback position. Freshman Jimmy Clausen started the game but could not lead the team to any points, finishing the day 7-of-20 for 60 yards and two interceptions. Junior Evan Sharpley came on in relief and led the Irish to their only offensive touchdown of the day.

Sharpley finished the game just 11-of-29 for 135 yards and no interceptions. As is his usual schedule, head coach Charlie Weis got into the office early on Sunday and watched the tape a few times. Weis has a big decision to make before Notre Dame suits up next week. The Irish will host No. 10 Southern California on Saturday afternoon.

But who'll be the starter at quarterback: Clausen, who has started the past six contests, or Sharpley, who has shown the ability to get the offense moving down the field. Weis needs a few more days and some consultation with his staff before making a final decision.

"I'll let you know on Tuesday," Weis said. "That's the fairest answer I can give right now. At this point I've watched the game a couple times, but I haven't watched it with the offensive staff yet. So I don't do those things before we've gotten together. I'll certainly let you know where I am on Tuesday."

The buzz after the contest was for Sharpley. The junior relieved Clausen in the third quarter after the freshman threw an interception on the first offensive play of the second half for Notre Dame. The pickoff led to an Eagles touchdown and a 20-0 lead. After two straight incompletions, Sharpley converted on 3rd-and-10 to Robby Parris for a 28-yard completion and a first down. Five plays later, these two connected again, this time on a 19-yard scoring strike to cut the deficit to 20-7 and turn the momentum back towards the Irish.

That was it for the Notre Dame offense for the afternoon. The other touchdown was scored on Brian Smith's 25-yard interception return for a score to make it 20-14 Boston College. Sharpley did lead the team down the field two more times without any points to show for it. On one drive, Brandon Walker missed a 41-yard field goal. On the other, a holding penalty negated a 4th-and-1 touchdown pass to Robby Parris that would have cut the deficit to 27-21 with just under six minutes remaining. Weis reiterated on Sunday that Sharpley's play was hot and cold.

"I think Evan made some good plays in the game, and I think we left some plays out there, too," Weis said. "I think that's true for both of them. But what he did do is his escapability on a couple plays, gave us a couple jump starts I think he made a couple plays where his speed, he got out of some trouble. He made a couple plays for us.

"Obviously, when he went in there a couple times now, he's gone in there and gotten us down, and gotten us in the end zone. So with that being said, there's definitely some good, and there's some not so good."

Weis said after the contest that performance in practice and in games are weighted equally. And so far, as evidenced by Clausen's six starts to Sharpley's zero, it's been the freshman who has done a better overall job. In games, though, Sharpley averages 5.98 yards per attempt and 11.1 yards per completion. Clausen averages 4.38 yards per attempt and 7.63 yards per completion. The freshman has the higher completion percentage while the junior has three passing touchdowns to Clausen's one. But the practice performance for Sharpley has to improve.

"It carries weight," Weis said of practice. "It definitely carries weight. But that weight's got to carry over. At the quarterback position, you have to be able to show up every day. Not that Evan doesn't show up every day, but if you want to be the guy, it can't just be on game day. Because the team's got to get ready to play.

"And I'm not saying that Evan's a bad practice player, so don't misconstrue what I'm saying. I'm saying if you're the best player in practice, it's usually going to indicate you're going to be ready to play in the game, usually."

Clausen struggled mightily on Saturday against a Boston College pass defense ranked 100th in the nation coming into the contest. The Eagles were able to stack up the Irish ground game as Notre Dame totaled just 27 yards on 21 attempts. But the freshman quarterback was off his game. Clausen threw two interceptions, one at the end of the first half and the second in the third quarter that led to an Eagles touchdown.

On the year, the freshman quarterback is 81-of-141 for 618 yards with one touchdown to five interceptions. Even Eagles head coach Jeff Jagodzinski said after the game that it would be tough sledding for any team to have a true freshman quarterback at the helm. Apparently, Clausen is the better of the two signal callers in practice. It's been the adjustment to games on Saturdays that's been the real learning experience for the freshman.

"The speed of the game in practice is never the speed of the game," Weis said. "So in practice, they've got those guys that are rushing, just aren't in your face the same way they are in a game. Things happen a lot faster on game day than they do in practice. They happen a lot faster. And I think that in practice, he's got everything under control. On game day, obviously, the games happen faster."

Weis said that at especially the quarterback position, there is great value in watching the game from the sidelines. Depending on the decision on Tuesday, Clausen could be in this scenario for next weekend's contest against USC.

"I think that is the one thing good about the couple guys we've got in the mix," Weis said. "Evan prepares just as if he's going to play every play. They both obviously do the same thing. I think there is a lot of value gained when you're watching things happen on the sidelines. Because you can see things happening before they happen, because you don't have the pressure of being underneath the center and calling the snap count and signaling the motion and all those other things. You can actually see it happening as it's happening when you're on the sidelines."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories