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Fighting Irish win another nail biter

Published October 10. 2009 09:00AM

For the fourth week in a row the Irish were involved in a game that was decided either at the very end or, as last week, in overtime. Thankfully, three of those four ended up on the plus side of the win-loss ledger of ND.

Despite the dramatic wins, and the 4-1 record, the South Bend Tribune beat writer, Al Lesar, in an article earlier this week, says of ND, "Irish still men of mystery." The reason, of course, is the way these last four games have played out. The ND offense continues to roll up good numbers and manages to come up with big scoring drives at all the right times. Then the defense lets teams get back in games and appears that it can't stop a team from driving for scores to stay close or get ahead of the Irish. Then last week the defense came up with two classic goal line stands that makes you wonder about this team. Is it simply very lucky, is it a combination of luck and skill or is it the foundation for future success as Lesar wrote.

Next week, however, a lot of those questions will be answered as the Irish host a top ranked team, Southern Calilfronia. More on USC next week.

As in past weeks the Irish defense gave up big yardage against Washington but then there was the two goal line stands that made the difference between a win or a devastating loss.

The defense gave up 457 yards in the game but held Washington out of the end zone on those two goal line stands.

For the first time this year the potent Irish offense showed signs of being human. Five field goals resulted in 15 points. But think if those drives had ended in touchdowns, 35 points rather than 15, and that would have made it a cakewalk instead a nail-biter.

Charlie Weis survived for another week but the win doesn't mean he'll be around next season. He is still very much on the hot seat, especially with the alumni.

Today we'll review the Washington game and some other items to catch up on as the Irish have the week off.

Jimmy Clausen is on his way to becoming one of the top quarterbacks ever to play for Notre Dame. Last week, as the prior week against Purdue, Clausen led the Irish to victory. He had the Irish in position to win in regulation and then led them in the overtime to victory.

The Huskies took the lead with a field goal, 27-22, with 3:04 to play only to have Clausen drive the Irish for a go-ahead TD. Then the Huskies drove for the possible winning score. The defense stopped Washington short forcing the field goal that tied the game. In fact, the Irish had to do it twice because on the first try tackle Ian Williams was called for roughing the holder. But the game ended in a overtime win, and that is what counts.

IRISH NOTES:When Michael Floyd went down a couple of weeks ago and Armando Allen was out for the Purdue game with a ankle injury, things looked pretty bad for the ND offense. Add to that the fact Clausen was playing with a painful turf toe injury. But Golden Tate stepped up and brought his game to a new level. Last week he reached the top with a performance that won't long be forgotten by Irish fans. Tate caught nine passes for 244 yards, more than half the total passing yardage of the game for ND, and a score. He also had a 31 yard run in the game to set up another score. The 244 receiving yards by Tate is the most by any player in the 120-team Football Bowl Division this season and the most ever surrendered to a receiver by a Washington team....Clausen was 23 of 31 for 422 yards and two scores with one interception....Allen returned to the lineup and finished with 39 yards on 12 carries. He left the game in the third quarter with a ankle problem. Weis said he could have returned but Robert Hughes was doing so well he didn't want to interrupt the flow of the game. Weis said Hughes was "rockin and rollin" too much to pull him out....Weis said TE Duval Kamara was only used as a blocker to protect his surgically repaired knee....Other stats from last week had Kyle Rudolph catching four for 53 yards and a score. Shaquelle Evans caught four for 34 yards and Allen three for 20. Hughes finished with eight carries and 70 yards....Nick Tausch's progress as kicker gives the Irish relief in the kicking game, which has been a problem for years at ND. Only a freshmen Tausch should improve as this career goes on and gives the Irish a kicker to count on for three more seasons....On the defensive side Kyle McCarthy led the way with 12 tackles followed by Manti Te'O with 10. Te'O, the highly rated freshman, played most of the game and it looks like he's the real deal....McCarthy saved the day again with his hit on Washington receiver D'Andre Goodwin at the goal line. Goodwin was open on the fourth and 19 play in overtime. If he scored and the Huskies converted the PAT, another overtime period or Washington could have gambled and went for the two points and a win. Harrison Smith made it a sandwich when he collided into Goodwin just moments after McCarthy's hit. Two weeks prior McCarthy saved the Michigan State game with a goal line interception....The Washington game had a lot. It took three hours and 48 minutes to play, had 987 total yards and seven lead changes....Clausen's performance may have moved him into serious consideration for the Heisman trophy....Clausen was honored for his performance last week. He was named O'Brien Quarterback of the Week for week five by The Davey O'Brien Foundation. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian had high praise for Clausen. "He played a terrific game. There weren't very many things that were just clean for him in the pocket. A lot of what he did was when pressure came, he was able to avoid the rush, buy time, kept his vision extremely well and made a lot of plays down the field.".....Irish practiced Tuesday and Wednesday this week and had the rest of it off resuming drills on Monday. Despite being offered the entire week off by Weis, Clausen declined and practiced....FB James Aldridge, injured since the second half of the Nevada game, had his first full-contact practice on Tuesday and is expected to be ready for the USC game....Frosh Tyler Eifert had a back injury that will require surgery and end his season. He will be eligible for a medical redshirt year....Next week we will preview the USC game, the biggest test so far in the Weis tenure at ND.

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