After rushing for 100 yards in the Notre Dame's annual Blue-Gold game, Hughes was named the offensive most valuable player. Harrison Smith was named defensive most valuable player with five tackles and an interception that he returned 15 yards for a touchdown.
Jimmy Clausen's eight yard fourth down touchdown pass to Duval Kamara with 00:24 to play earned the offense a 47-46 victory over the defense. Please don't ask for an explanation of the scoring system.
Clausen completed 10 of 27 passes for 183 yards. No throw was better than the 57 yard pitch to Golden Tate to set up the winning score. "He could never make that throw last year," Head Coach Charlie Weis said after the game.
Clausen agreed. "I feel great right now," he said. "It just feels good to be healthy."
The offense came out throwing on the first series. Two incomplete passes and a sack resulted. The second series was different, to say the least. Fifteen rushes in a row ended with a one yard TD plunge by Hughes, and the tone was set for the rest of the day.
"I wanted to let the offensive line tee off," said Weis. You can't build physicality if you don't let them tee off. That is one of the things we wanted to do today."
A dust-up afterwards overshadowed the best defensive play of the day, Harrison Smith's touchdown. Smith jumped the route, stretched his 6'2" frame, and snagged the pass with his fingertips. He dove into the end zone, and fireworks ensued. Mike Ragone took exception to the celebration and pushed Raeshon McNeil. McNeil threw a punch, and Eric Olsen jumped to his fellow lineman's defense. The usual pushing, talking, and milling about followed.
Smith didn't think the celebration was a big deal. "I saw Bruton do it last year, so I'm taking a page from his book," he said.
Weis is all for having fun, but he doesn't want his players to cross the line. "The only real disappointment out of this game right here was that you're trying to coach emotion, and you saw a lack of composure at the same time."
It may not have been true game pressure, but Brandon Walker showed more confidence and consistency than we saw last fall. He made all of his extra points and split his two field goal attempts, making one from 31 yards and hitting the upright from 46 yards.
Weis likes the progress. "Obviously you can see he's more confident. "His best kick of the day was probably the one he missed," Weis said referring to the 46-yard attempt that had enough leg for another ten yards.
Terrail Lambert had the hit of the day, stopping Armando Allen dead in his tracks at the two yard line when it looked like Allen was going to score easily. "That's a big time hit," said Weis, "a big, physical play. That ball could have come out. That's the type of play you like to see from your corners."
"There were a few other contenders that got some votes in there," said Weis. "But in all three cases, these guys were clear winners."
Crum is captain for the second straight year. "It's always an honor. It's not guaranteed."
David Grimes is known as a quiet guy, but Crum has seen a growing leader this spring. "Grimes has done a complete 180. He's grown up as a player, but at the same time he's been vocal. When the offense is having a bad day, it's always David who speaks up."
Bruton's teammates are in awe of his physical ability, but they like to talk about his work ethic and studiousness. Leadership by example is critical, but Bruton knows there is more to it. "Sometimes I have to put aside the buddy-buddy mentality. You have to be the sergeant of the group. I have to be more of a vocal leader. When I speak, it's something that comes from the heart, something that's real."
Harrison Smith's versatility is making him a fan favorite. Splitting time between safety and linebacker alignments, he had a chance to be in on a lot of plays.
"He's just a heck of an athlete, and he's tough," Crum said. "He always works hard. He never backs down from contact. If he messes up, he won't mess up twice. He's a real sharp guy and real tough."
The Running Back Derby
If Saturday's stats are the barometer, Robert Hughes will be the #1 tailback heading into summer camp; and Armando Allen will be #2. Hughes had 22 carries. Allen had 11, and James Aldridge had 6.
"I think all three of these running backs can play," said Weis. "I don't know how it's going to play out. They all bring something different to the table, but they're all really good football players."
Honorary coach Allen Pinkett liked what he saw. "I see a group that cares about each other," he said. "That's very necessary.
"Everybody wants to be the man, and the competition is healthy. It makes them perform at top level every time they have the opportunity to touch the football."
Pinkett was impressed with Hughes. "I see a guy who's eager to learn, eager to get better. He relishes every chance he has to carry the football."
Pinkett noted the change of pace Allen provides. "A fleet back like he is can frustrate a lot of differences. Armando hits the hole quicker, so they have to sit back and catch whereas if they catch Robert Hughes or James Aldridge, they're in for a heck of a beating."
San Diego State at Notre Dame; September 6, 2008; 3:30 EDT.