Clausen scrambles with Penn State defenders Sean Lee and Phil Taylor in pursuit. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Despite Strong Performance on Clausen's First Start, Irish Fall to Penn State, 31 -10

Sept. 8, 2007

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – All the talk was about Notre Dame freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Penn State’s defense and Derrick Williams took the spotlight.

The 14th-ranked Nittany Lions bottled up Clausen in his starting debut, Williams had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and Austin Scott ran for two second-half scores in a 31-10 win Saturday night over the Irish.

Anthony Morelli threw for 131 yards and a touchdown, though Penn State’s offense looked shaky much of the day.

The Irish were worse, in almost every way.

Notre Dame opened the season 0-2 for the first time since 2001, when the Irish lost their first three games.

The much-ballyhooed Clausen finished 17-of-32 passing for 144 yards and an interception. Most of the freshman’s completions were on swing passes or screens as Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis went conservative until midway through the fourth quarter.

Darrin Walls staked the Irish defense to a 7-0 lead, returning an interception 73 yards for a touchdown and quieting a raucous crowd dressed almost entirely in white.

Williams brought them back to life.

The junior, who runs track in the offseason, caught Geoff Price’s punt down the right sideline, navigated through early traffic before making a cross-field dash to the end zone. Teammate A.J. Wallace delivered a key block and Notre Dame’s Rasheon McNeil missed a tackle.

Morelli hit Jordan Norwood for a 10-yard TD pass midway through the second quarter to give Penn State a 14-7 advantage, and a relentless defense took over from there. Scott finished with 28 carries and 116 yards along with his two scores. Morelli was 12-of-22 passing and had an interception.

Notre Dame’s offensive line, which was battered for nine sacks in the 33-3 season-opening loss to Georgia Tech, couldn’t handle the Nittany Lions most of the game.

Clausen’s best drive came late in the fourth quarter, when he led Notre Dame to the red zone. However, that ended on fourth down when he was forced to scramble and then threw high, a pass that was intercepted in the end zone by Justin King.

Maurice Evans finished Clausen’s night by bursting through the line for a sack. Notre Dame was held without an offensive touchdown for the second straight game.

Remembering last season’s 41-17 loss at South Bend, Ind. Beaver Stadium rocked. The crowd of 110,078 was the second largest in stadium history, and midway through the fourth quarter most were singing “Hey, hey, goodbye”