April 19, 2008
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Although players committed dumb penalties, receivers dropped passes and Jimmy Clausen called two untimely timeouts, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish showed enough during their annual spring game Saturday to give fans hope for next season.
Clausen showed his arm strength. He completed a 57-yard pass to Golden Tate to the 8-yard line on fourth-and-10 to give his Blue team a chance to win. Moments later on fourth-and-10 he lofted an 8-yard TD pass to Duval Kamara with 24 seconds left to give the offense a 47-46 victory under an improvised scoring system.
“I just feel great right now,” said Clausen, who was slowed last season after arthroscopic elbow surgery to have a bone spur removed.
Coach Charlie Weis was pleased to see Clausen make the clutch long pass.
“He could never make the throw last year,” Weis said. “Even at the end of the year he couldn’t make that throw.”
Clausen was 10-of-27 passing for 183 yards during the 60-minute game with a running clock. Several times he threw the ball away to avoid being sacked, and there were a handful of dropped passes.
“Jimmy got good zip on the ball,” Weis said. “Obviously, he can sling it.”
Clausen did throw a pass that was intercepted by safety Harrison Smith for a 15-yard touchdown. The only other criticism Weis had for Clausen was that he called timeouts after the second and fifth plays of the second half.
Robert Hughes ran for 100 yards on 22 carries and was named MVP of the offense. It’s hard to read a lot into the spring game, though. A year ago Junior Jabbie ran for 87 yards on 13 carries and was named the game’s MVP. But he carried the ball 10 times last season as the Irish struggled to a 3-9 record, rushing for 75 yards a game.
Hughes ran for more than 100 yards in the final two games last season. Still, Weis wasn’t ready to say Saturday that Hughes will head into the fall ahead of Armando Allen, who ran for 50 yards on 11 carries, or James Aldridge, who ran for 18 yards on six carries.
“You’re really not worrying about it, because you’re going to play all three of them,” Weis said.
Weis was pleased by the play of the offensive line, which gave up a school-record 58 sacks last season. Weis said the offense ran a lot of running plays to help the line.
“I wanted to let the offensive line tee off. You can’t build physicality if you don’t let them tee off. That is one of the things we wanted to do today,” he said.
One area Weis wasn’t happy with was his team’s composure. He was upset that Hughes flipped the ball after scoring a touchdown, which an official told him would have been a penalty in a real game. He also was unhappy that several players got involved in a skirmish after Smith’s interception.
“You’re trying to play with emotion, but you also have to have composure,” Weis said.
Notes: Linebacker Maurice Crum Jr., wide receiver David Grimes and safety David Bruton were named captains. Crum, captain of the defense, is the 17th player to be named captain twice. … A crowd of 30,286 attended the game. It was the fifth largest crowd for the game.