Offensive Notebook

SOUTH BEND - Evan Sharpley's first career-start was a forgettable one. As many shots as the Irish quarterback took on Saturday in the 38-0 loss to No. 9 USC, he might not have any problem in doing so.

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound junior from Marshall, Mich. was sacked five times and pressured all day by the Trojans, in completing 17-of-33 passes for just 117 yards and an interception on the final throw of the game. Several times Sharpley looked down field but receivers were covered and the pocket would typically collapse.

"Yeah, we tried to throw some shots down the field," head coach Charlie Weis said. "He could only play about half his passes. He was under duress, sometimes we were gap protecting, which should have given us a better shot. There was a couple times we just got beat one-on-one and it wasn't man protection because we were gapping everything. So I was a little disappointed with that. I was disappointed early on one play because we had (tight end John) Carlson running wide open down the middle of the field, but the kid never had an opportunity on the play.

"I think when he had an opportunity to step and throw, the kid made some decent throws."

The Trojans (6-1) limited the Irish (1-7) offense to just 165 yards, and only 48 yards on the ground. With the sacks, Sharpley was credited with minus-31 yards rushing on his eight carries.

"It was a struggle," Sharpley stated. "It was difficult. They're a very good defense, kudos to them, and we had a tough time."

Following the open date next weekend, the schedule gets a lot less tough for Sharpley and the Irish beginning with Navy at home.

***Following the game, Weis pulled freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen aside for a little teaching.

"Yeah, I explained to him how much easier it is to sit there and see how much the game slows down when you're not under center, and he said that he couldn't believe the difference because he's been playing every snap his whole life," Weis explained. Sharpley replaced Clausen, who started the last six games and has completed 81-of-141 passes for 618 yards and one touchdown on the year. "Since he was a little kid he's got every snap, and this is the first time he's got to be able to sit back and watch the offensive formation come out of the huddle because he already knows the play, instead of having to look at everything offensively, being able to look at the defense and watch them stem into a diamond or watch them rotate the coverage from two to blitz zone three. There's a lot of things when you're standing on the sideline and you're not under center the game slows down tremendously.

"And what I said to him is if you ever want to be a good quarterback, how much it slows down when you're on the sideline, that's how slow it's got to be when you're playing because that's what the great quarterbacks do. They see everything happening before it happens, and the game plays for them, it's a nice slow pace rather than a fast pace."

***Based off of what Weis said all week, it was no surprise that sophomore running back James Aldridge would not play because of a high-ankle sprain. Fifth-year senior Travis Thomas replaced Aldridge in the starting lineup, but he ended up giving way to freshman Armando Allen.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Allen carried the ball 11 times for a career-high 58 yards. Most of it coming on the final drive where he had runs of two, five, four, nine and six yards.

"Armando's a hard worker," fifth-year senior center John Sullivan said. "He did a great job at the end of the day today. Hopefully we'll see more of that in the future."

One of Allen's carries that went for a first down early in the fourth quarter got a sarcastic round of applause from the Irish fans in attendance. Notre Dame had only 10 first downs for the game.

***Notre Dame started two freshmen at wide receiver, Duval Kamara and Golden Tate, for the first time since Oct. 30, 1982. That day Milt Jackson and current Irish offensive coordinator Mike Haywood got the nod.

Kamara led the Irish with four receptions for 33 yards. Tate had one grab for 22 yards, the longest Notre Dame play from scrimmage on the afternoon. Top Stories