Irish rally to win third game of year
Jimmy Clausen, held out of most of the second half due to turf toe injury, came in the final series and led the Irish to a come-from-behind 24-21 win of Purdue last week. That is the plus side of the Irish win. But again head coach Charlie Weis had the Irish hanging on at the end because of some questionable decisions he made. The win does not take him off the hot seat.
It was another night that the Irish impressed at times, and didn't look good at times. It was a night when the Irish defense met the challenge of facing the number two running back in the country and shutting him down, but permitting the Boilermakers to rally from a 17-7 deficit to go ahead 21-17 after scoring two late-game socres. So the Irish are now 3-1 but facing more questions than answers in the weeks ahead.
The highly explosive Irish offense took a hit when they had three top performers not at full speed. Clausen and running back Armando Allen are injured and go week-to-week. Leading receiver Michael Floyd is gone until at least November. In trying to make up for the losses Weis decided to use the many talents of receiver Golden Tate by getting the ball into his hands as many times as possible.
It worked as Tate had an outstanding game both as a receiver and running back when the Irish used the "wildcat" offense. Weis also brought in backup QB Dayne Crist, who did a good job in leading the offense, although he does not have the spark that Clausen brings to the offense. But he will, eventually, as he gets more playing time.
A win is always good, but must also be put in proper perspective. Purdue is not a nationally ranked team, playing with a first-year quarterback and new head coach and whose defense was ranked 105th in the national last week. But wins build confidence and that is always good. More of the Purdue game later.
Today the Irish host Washington, who enters at 2-2 under new head coach Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies were 0-12 last year under former Irish coach Tyrone Willingham, but Sarkisian has them going in the right direction. Washington upset number three ranked Southern California two weeks ago, 16-13. The Huskies also defeated Idaho, 42-23, for their second win. They lost the opener to a good LSU team, 31-23, and fell last week to another up and coming team, Stanford, 34-14.
The Huskies are led by first-year starting QB Jake Locker. In four games he has completed 79 of 136 passes for six TDs with three interceptions and 1,002 total yards. He also is not afraid to run the ball with 33 carries and 134 yards and two scores. Top rusher is Chris Polk with 84 carries for 353 yards and a score. Top two receivers are James Johnson with 19 catches for 220 yards and two TDs and J. Kearse with 11/182 and one.
This is the eighth meeting between Washington and the Irish with ND holding the series lead 7-0-0. Last year ND won, 33-7. In six of the seven previous games the Irish have won by 19 or more points.
The game will be televised nationally by NBC-TV with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff. It is the 208th consecutive home sellout for ND.
IRISH NOTES:Clausen was brilliant last week in leading the Irish to the win. Weis said the game plan was to try and get a lead in the first half and give Clausen the second half off and protect the lead. That, my friends, is typical NFL coaching. But the Irish needed Clausen who drove the them 72 yards in 12 plays, connecting with TE Kyle Rudolph in the end zone for a three yard score and 24.8 seconds left for the victory. Clausen connected on six of nine passes for 69 yards in the drive. He finished with 171 passing yards on 15 of 26 and gave up his first interception of the season. Tate led the offense with 55 yards on nine carries and a scored and also caught five passes for 57 yards. Robert Hughes got into the mix and got 68 yards on 15 rushes and a score. Crist was five of 10 passing for 45 yards. He also rushed four times for 16 yards and led the Irish on two touchdown drives. Rudolph caught four for 52 and the winning TD....On the defensive side Kyle MaCarthy led the "D" again with 10 tackles backed by Robert Blanton and Sergio Brown, with eight apiece....When you think of it, the Irish are one play away from 4-0 and two plays away from 1-3....Purdue certainly helped the Irish in the final drive by taking a timeout with under a minute to go and the Irish at their four yard line. Purdue coach Danny Hope said he called the timeout to save time for his offense to run a couple of plays after ND scored. Weis said the timeout certainly helped his team. He said it gave his offense time to "gather our thoughts"....Weis on his team after the win, "This team is changed. Our teams in the past might have been frazzled. This team didn't get frazzled."....The defense shutdown Purdue's top runner Ralph Bolden holding him to 67 yards on 17 carries and making him a non-factor in the contest....It was the fifth time in Irish history a ND team rallied on the road for the winning score in the final 25 seconds....Wins over Purdue have proven to be good for the Irish in future games. Since World War II the Irish and Boilers have played 63 times with the Irish winning 41 times and have gone on to win at a .824 clip for the season. In the 22 ND losses to Purdue the Irish winning percentage dropped to .536....ND's defense certainly met the challenge of the Purdue rushing game but there are still a lot of questions in other areas. ND did not lock up in the middle with the Boilers completing three big pass plays over the middle at critical times in the game....Tate certainly picked up the slack for the injured Allen. Allen practiced all week this past week with no limitations so he should be ready for today's game....Weis has made a change at punter. Frosh Ben Turk has taken over the punting from senior Eric Maust for today's game. Weis had planned to redshirt Turk but Maust's punt average of less than 38 yards per try is not good. His short kicks have hurt late in the past two games....FB James Aldridge, out since the second half of the Nevada game, is still not ready to play....The ND sports information department has labeld the Irish wildcat offense the "Leprecat" offense. The scheme picked up 46 yards in five plays last week....If ND wins today Weis will move past Terry Brennan on the all-time Irish coaching list with 33 career wins. Next would be Jesse Harper, who had 34, and then Bob Davie, who has 35....On Wednesday it was announced yet another bowl game. The new one, which will begin after the 2010 season will be played at the new Yankee stadium in New York and feature the third or fourth team out of the Big East against the seventh out of the Big 12. If the Big 12 does not have a team to qualify, and ND is not in another game, the Irish would fill the spot. The game would be played between Christmas and New Years. No name had been selected yet for the bowl. The Irish play Army in a "home" game on Nov. 20, 2010, in Yankee stadium....Yesterday a unveiling and dedication of a bronze sculpture of Irish legendary coach Knute Rockne was unveiled at ND stadium. Four of his grandchildren were present for the ceremony. It is located on the east side of the stadium. The sculpture shows Rockne in his coaching sweatshirt and baseball pants, with his hands on his hips. Rockne's winning percentage of .881 (105-12-5) remains the best in the history of either college or professional football....Today's game is no cakewalk by any means. Washington is an up and coming team and with the upset win over USC the Huskies have a lot of confidence. ND has been struggling. Three of the four games this year have gone down to the wire and the competition, save Michigan, has not been the elite of college football. ND is favored by 13, but that is way out of line. I picked ND to win this in my preseason picks. I don't feel good about today's game because I don't have much confidence in the defense. Don't be surprise if the Irish fall today.