During preseason Jimmy Clausen said that he wanted to be a leader on his team, but that he would not be considered one until he proved it on the field. So, after leading the team down the field for two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter followed by one last drive to put the game away does he feel like he is moving toward that?
"I think so. We just got to get better as a whole unit," he said. "On offense we've just got to keep progressing, get better each and everyday at practice and go out and perform on gamedays."
Notre Dame made it very clear that it wanted to be a run first team that used the pass as a complement, but after that approach did not succeed, Charlie Weis and Michael Haywood put the game in the sophomore's hands.
The Irish went to a two-minute offense and Clausen responded by going 8 for 9 for 98 yards and two touchdown passes on the first two drives of the fourth quarter before the Irish ran the clock out on their final possession of the game.
"There came a point in the game, about the third quarter, where I felt that the tempo had to be changed," Weis said. "I thought going into that two-minute operation kind of changed the tempo of the game."
Notre Dame finished with a balanced 34-34 run-pass ratio and Clausen was excited to get the chance that he did in the end.
"It's great. In crucial situations you always want the ball," Clausen said. "Pressure situations, I'm ready to go."
But Clausen was modest in his overall assessment of his play.
"I did all right, I can't make mistakes in the redzone, throwing that interception," Clausen said. "We got a victory that's all I care about."
Two running backs instead of three?: The Irish intended to use a three-back approach for the season, but while Armando Allen started and Robert Hughes played significantly, James Aldridge never got off the bench.
"The intent was for James to get some reps in there too. The problem is we were off the field so much in the first half. The intent was for all three of those guys to get into the mix in the first half, but we're off the field so much," Weis said. "In the second half what minimized his opportunity to get on the field that is when we go two-minute Armando is our guy and Robert is our other guy in two-minute."
Rookies get first chance: Michael Floyd had the biggest impact of any of the Irish freshmen by putting Notre Dame on the board with his 22-yard touchdown grab with left 1:14 before the half.
"Michael has a world of ability," Weis said. "The more he gets on the field, the more production we'll get out of him. But I thought that was obviously a huge play. That's the type of thing he can do, he can go up and make those plays."
Kyle Rudolph became the first freshman tight end to start a season-opener for the Irish and had one catch for five yards.
Pass blocking improves: After setting a NCAA record with 58 sacks a year ago, the Notre Dame offensive line did not allow a single sack in its 2008 debut. The Irish defense pressured Lindley all day, but only sacked him once for a seven-yard loss. The Aztecs were shorthanded at defensive line, but Notre Dame's line did a great job of keeping Clausen upright.
Irish lose turnover battle: Officially the Irish turned the ball over four times with two lost fumbles and the two interceptions by Clausen. All four were costly, as was what Weis counted as a fifth.
"We turned the ball over what I would call five times, two fumbles, one going in, one after a nice run in the middle of the field and two interceptions, one bouncing off the receivers chest, the one where we should have thrown it to the other side," Weis said. "I consider the botched field goal a turnover because that's points that were on the board versus off the board.
"Anytime you turn the ball over that many times you have a legitimate chance of losing. And today was one of those ones where we feel very fortunate to have been able to have won the game."
The Irish defense forced three turnovers of its own with Kerry Neal's interception on the first defensive series of the second half, David Bruton's fumble recovery in the end zone and the fourth down stop on San Diego State's final possession.
Penalties hurt: The Irish were called for seven penalties for 58 yards while San Diego State had 11 penalties for 100 yards. Some of the Notre Dame penalties were costly. Maurice Crum had two third-down penalties to keep the Aztecs' third drive alive although the Irish were able to force a punt on that possession.
Grimes had a holding penalty on the Irish's first drive of the second quarter that pushed a long Hughes gain back before Hughes' fumble at the three.
Ray Herring was called offsides on the Aztecs' second possession after the half and San Diego State made the Irish pay by continuing the drive and scoring a touchdown that gave the Aztecs a 13-7 lead.
Weis refuses the ball: Notre Dame won the opening toss and Charlie Weis uncharacteristically decided to defer to the second half.
"I think in the first two years I was here, I thought our offense was going to carry our team so the more times we could get the ball, get on top of our opponent, I thought it would give us the best chance of winning," he said. "I'm now at a stage, I'm looking at this from a whole team perspective, I think you have to give the defense a chance. You have to make a statement to the defense to let them know, ‘Hey fellas, I'm counting on you.' That's why I did it."
No major injuries: Allen and Hughes both limped off of the field after their lost fumbles, but both returned to the game. Allen was motionless on the field for a few moments after his fumble but after the game said that he just had the wind knocked out of him.
Kamara also limped off after a 28-yard reception late in the first quarter, but returned shortly after.
Plays revisited: The referees used instant replay to look at the fumbles by both teams at the goal line. Both were upheld.
Who's better?: San Diego State coach Chuck Long was asked point blank who was better Notre Dame or Cal-Poly and he did not respond with a point blank answer.
"That's a tough question. Each week is different. It's hard to say who's better. They're two totally different schemes," said Long. "It's hard to say who's better. They both beat us."