It’s awfully hard to become a star quarterback when you spend most of the game flat on your back. Right about now Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen has to be wondering why he didn’t choose any of the other schools who courted him out of high school.
In their 31-10 trouncing of the Irish, Penn State got to Clausen six times for the sack, and we won’t even talk about the amount times Clausen heard the footsteps, getting rid of the ball too soon. By my estimation, only one of those losses was completely Clausen’s fault – near the end of the first half when he held onto the ball too long instead of junking it to the “cheap seats.”
No, this is an offensive line that can’t stop anyone. Nine sacks by Georgia Tech, six by the Nittany Lions – there are teams that go the whole season without their quarterback getting dropped 15 times and this season just started.
For his part, Clausen played fairly well going 17-32 and 144 yards including a 35-yard bomb to Robby Parris late in the game. Head coach Charlie Weis stuck to a mostly conservative offense with quick swing passes designed to bolster his young quarterback’s confidence, and yet, this Charlie Weis offense has still yet to score a touchdown after two games. Not helping their case at all, Notre Dame was their own worst enemy in this game.
From the outset, the Irish looked like they might make a go of it jumping out to an early 7-0 lead thanks to a 73 yard pickoff return by Darrin Walls and then the flags started flying. Fifth-year senior and two-time captain Travis Thomas got the party started with a personal foul on a punt return taking the Irish from good field position (near mid-field) to mediocre (back inside the 30) for the ensuing offensive set.
From there it just got worse with the Blue and Gold getting tagged 14 times for 97 yards. Let me say that again, 97 penalty yards … when your anemic offense musters zero rushing yards and 144 yards total offense, that’s just inexcusable. Weis has a lot of work to do with this team, but on the bright side, the defense played well – no matter what the 31-10 score might indicate.
Three and out was the theme for Notre Dame’s offense against Penn State meaning the defensive squad spent a lot of time on the field. Going into the half, Notre Dame was only down 14-7 with the defensive unit holding when it mattered. But I don’t care who you are, you spend as much time on the field as these guys did, Penn State dominated the play clock at 34 minutes, and things start getting through. The blowout didn’t begin until late in the third quarter when the defense was just out of gas.
As this season of woe for the Irish continues, what’s there to look forward to? Oh yeah, Michigan’s next. The Fighting Irish head to The Big House Saturday to take on an even more disappointing Wolverines, they only thing redeeming about this game? Someone, by default, will come out 1-2.