April 21, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame fans arrived at the Blue-Gold game eager to see highly touted quarterback Jimmy Clausen. They left talking about little-known tailback Junior Jabbie.
The Fighting Irish emphasized running rather than passing on Saturday. Coach Charlie Weis expects to see more of the same in the fall.
“I think one of the main things I wanted to come out here in the spring was to establish a toughness on the offense that I think we’ve gotten away from a little bit,” Weis said. “That’s why I wanted to see a heavy dose of pound-it runs.”
Jabbie, who didn’t carry the ball last season and did not play as a defensive back his first two years at Notre Dame, had 13 carries for 87 yards Saturday to lead the Gold team to a 10-6 victory. He had more than twice as many yards as the players expected to vie for the starting tailback spot.
James Aldridge had 34 yards on nine carries for the Gold team and Travis Thomas had nine carries for 36 yards. Armando Allen, who enrolled in school in January, had five runs for 19 yards.
“Where everyone wants to talk about Travis and James and obviously Armando is the new blood. That’s what we’ve seen out of Junior the whole spring. He’s played himself into deserving to be in contention,” Weis said.
None of the four quarterbacks seeking to replace Brady Quinn did anything remarkable. Evan Sharpley had the best passing numbers, completing five of seven passes for 31 yards, but he also had a fumble. Demetrius Jones was 3-of-6 passing with an ugly 15-yard TD pass to Robby Parris. But he also overthrew a pass to tight end John Carlson that safety David Bruton intercepted and returned 35 yards for a touchdown. Jones also had a 31-yard run on a third-and-19.
Clausen was 3-of-7 passing and had a chance to be a hero. The Blue got the ball at its own 35-yard line with 2 minutes left, but his only completion was called back on a pass interference call against Carlson.
Zach Frazer was 0-of-4 passing with one interception.
“None of the four, I would say, played themselves out of contention, and that’s as strong a statement as I can make there,” Weis said.
Weis will narrow the race for the starting job to two quarterbacks in late May.
Weis was pleased with what he saw from the team’s new 3-4 defensive alignment.
“A lot of the runs that were made were cut-back runs, so obviously we have to work on the whole back side,” he said.
The game also featured two former Notre Dame coaching greats. Lou Holtz, who led the Irish to a national championship in 1988, coached the Gold. He gave Sharpley an earful after a sack.
“We just prayed on it a little bit,” Holtz joked afterward.
The Gold players doused Holtz after the game.
“You don’t throw Gatorade on a guy at 70 years old in a spring game when it’s not expected,” he said. “I could have had a heart attack and sued Notre Dame for a lot of money.”
Ara Parseghian, who guided Notre Dame to national championships in 1966 and 1973, coached the Blue.
“As I approached the sideline, you’re flooded with memories of 11 years that you were here,” he said. “We had a lot of exciting games. That’s what went through my mind as I was coming out on the field.”
A record 51,852 fans attended the game, surpassing the 41,279 that turned out last year. Before that, the record was 35,675 fans who showed up in Gerry Faust’s first season in 1981.