I tip my hat to sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Since his infamous announcement to attend Notre Dame at the College Football Hall of Fame, the West Lake Village, Calif. native has been a lightening rod of conversation—some good, some bad.
He's been beat up, both physically and mentally, sometimes fair, sometimes not. He took a tremendous pounding last year as the starting quarterback for the Irish and never once blamed anyone else on his team. He simply got up and carried on.
He's never run away from the criticisms, and he's taken responsibility when he's played poorly. He's made a few bad decisions, both on the field and off, but he's just a kid living a dream. And he's a winner.
Is he cocky? You bet. Should he be? You bet. He hasn't won anything worth mentioning on the football field yet, but he's damn good, and his best football is ahead of him.
He's cocky because he is a winner. He knows how to win. He knows the mindset one needs to be truly great. He's been truly great in the past, and if his team follows his lead, he'll make them a winner as well.
He'll still have bad games, and he's still learning the position. He makes mistakes, sometimes costly, but all quarterbacks do. But he plays the game with the attitude of a winner, and more importantly, he backs it up.
Clausen is bringing a swagger back to the Irish, and it's fun to watch this team again. If the offense buys into what he's selling, this team can go a long way in the future. You already see a good number buying in, once the rest do, look out!
Next Saturday is another chapter in Clausen's legacy. The Irish will march into Chapel Hill, N.C. with the opportunity to make a statement against what will likely be a ranked team on the road. The Irish might not be ready yet to make such a statement, especially if starting left tackle Michael Turkovich is out for the game, but I believe Clausen will be. He simply has to get them to follow his lead.
Clausen already is a great player in my mind. If you give him time, he'll pick a team apart. He just needs to pull his team up to his level of both confidence and execution. They have the talent. They just need the confidence and the execution. We've seen many examples of them doing just that, but we haven't seen an entire game of it. They'll likely need to play four quarters in Chapel Hill to win.
Regardless, the maturation of Clausen as a quarterback has been fun to watch. I can only imagine how exciting this offense will be when the rest of the offense starts to play up to his level. As I mentioned, a good number already are, but once the rest arrive, this is going to be quite a fun ride for Irish fans.
The Irish Respond
Stanford offensive tackle Chris Marinelli sparked some fireworks earlier in the week with his comments about the Irish defense and Notre Dame in general. Irish fans wondered how Notre Dame would respond, and I think the results speak volumes.
The Cardinal did "gash" the Irish defense for the entire first quarter, but the Irish defense responded with two critical turnovers and held Stanford to just seven points through three quarters of football. They bent early but then played excellent football the rest of the way. They likely would've held Stanford to seven points the entire game if the Irish offense could've gotten on track in the second half.
More importantly, however, is the Irish responded and played inspired football from the opening whistle. And, I believe ND took Stanford's best shot. There was no question the Cardinal were sky high for this game, and they played a very physical football game. Marinelli's comments sparked the Stanford team as well, and I believe the Cardinal gave Notre Dame their best shot, and the Irish came out swinging and punched back. That's a very good sign for the future.
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