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Five things we learned: Notre Dame vs. Purdue

Sep 26, 2009, 11:42 PM EDT

In the end, it was the Irish marching down the field, attempting to steal away a football game that had already slipped out of their grasp. With Jimmy Clausen clearly hobbled and nowhere near 100 percent, he gimped his way back onto the field, intent on settling some unfinished business.

With a 4th and goal, and the season on the line, Clausen found Kyle Rudolph on a special out in the left-side of the endzone with just 24 seconds left. The very same pattern and corner of the endzone that Tate Forcier found Greg Matthews to break the Irish’s hearts in Ann Arbor.

But the Irish escape with a win on a wild day of college football. On a day where highly ranked teams took missteps across the board, the Irish walked into a hostile environment with their best running back, wide receiver, and quarterback out or incredibly gimpy and found a way to win. Here’s what we learned today:

1) The Irish can find ways to win.

For the first time this season, Notre Dame willed its way to victory. Content to play against the clock as the second half started, head coach Charlie Weis made the decision to play to win the game. (Ask Herm Edwards if you don’t get my drift.) He went ultra-conservative on offense, content to run the ball and the clock either out of the Wildcat with Golden Tate, or hand the ball off with backup quarterback Dayne Crist. The plan worked, until defensive deficiencies saw Purdue force the Irish to respond. And the most promising part of the victory tonight was that the Irish did. Whether it was punter Eric Maust stepping up, Golden Tate running and catching the ball, or the improved coverage of the secondary, the Irish found a way to win the football game. It may not be the signature win people wanted, but it’s a victory that Charlie Weis and the team should savor.

2) Notre Dame finally has depth

With the Irish looking at 3rd down and 14 from the Purdue 36 and needing a touchdown, Clausen fired a laser to wide receiver Robby Parris, who converted with a 15-yard gain. A huge catch by Notre Dame’s fourth wide receiver. That’s the type of depth Weis is building, and that’s why he’s one of the best recruiters in the country. Eight different players caught passes, including former walk-on tight end Bobby Burger. The secondary rolled guys in, with great plays being made by Gary Gray, Darrin Walls, and Sergio Brown. And the running game barely lost a beat with Robert Hughes running hard, along with Jonas Gray, Theo Riddick, and quarterback Dayne Crist.

3) Jimmy Clausen is really good.

Many Irish fans are taking for granted #7. While he hasn’t delivered back-to-back national championships, or turned those high school championship rings into BCS appearances, Jimmy Clausen is the unquestioned leader of this offense, and one of the best quarterbacks in the country. His final drive should stand the test of time and be praised for what it was: a tremendously gutsy performance by one of the best quarterbacks to play for Notre Dame. While his 15 of 26 for 171 yards won’t have him moving up anyone’s Heisman ballots, the difference between Clausen, who couldn’t even take a snap under center, and Crist, who looks like a wild stallion still needed to be broken, is night and day.

4) Sam Young’s needs to get it together.

Too often we heard Sam Young’s name tonight. Procedure penalties, a holding call on a screen pass, and blown blocking assignments is befuddling. Notre Dame’s best offensive lineman needs to start playing like it. Most were hoping last week was an aberration, but Young did nothing to show that he understands what he means to this offensive front. The hulking tackle’s talent is clear to everybody, but the lack of recognition between the ear-pads is what’s troubling.

5) The defense still needs to get back to the basics.

Once again, the Irish make an average quarterback look very good. Joey Elliott threw for 289 easy yards and 3 TDs. Too often Elliott rolled out to find a wide-open receiver sitting at 8-to-10 yards. The Irish made Keith Smith look like a star, missing tackles on him and running back Ralph Bolden with regularity. And while most of us will only remember Clausen’s late game heroics, the defensive’s mental breakdown on Purdue’s last offensive play, where Jaycen Taylor ran 38 yards without anyone coming within five yards of him, is yet another communication breakdown for Jon Tenuta’s defense. While ND did a better job at stuffing the run, there is still plenty of work to be done.

  1. Geo-n-al - Sep 28, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    Poor defensive play + poor offensive play calling = a 7 win season…maybe! Purdue stinks in fact most of the Big 10 stinks and it still took the heroics of Jimmy C to win the game. Fourth down and 10, 2nd string QB, poor O-line play and you go for it? What am I missing here? Charlie “the hamburgler” must have have thought he was coaching Florida, Texas or even Kansas.
    During the Michigan game with 2 min plus left in the game does he call for short passes utilizing his tight ends or backs…no he throws it down the field when all we needed was 2 first downs to win the game. I want ND football to regain its prominent stature as a winning program. I can not see this happening with Charlie leading the charge.

  2. richardH - Sep 28, 2009 at 3:31 PM

    Sometimes i think ego gets in the way of common sense when it comes to play calling. Always shooting for the home run instead of taking what is offered and running the clock down. The best example was the Brady Quinn last 2 years. He would heave it and the receives made him look wonderful. He is trying to do the same with Jimmy C. Both are good quarterbacks and can get the job done. We need to start winning the war in the trenches. ND has not been the same since the Lou Holtz years. This guy now might have the same winning percentage as the two previouse coaches and they got fired.

  3. ND1 - Sep 28, 2009 at 6:26 PM

    WoW. I cannot believe that there are so many negative Nancy’s in one place. I could reiterate everything already said but i’ll just hit the fine points. Jimmy Clausen has sufficient enough proof that not only is he the bonafide leader of the team but one of the best players in the country. He was recruited to Notre Dame to make a difference and this past Saturday, as far as i’m concerned, proved his worth. On another note, saying that the offensive line is average to good is false. They’re a lot better than some people are giving them credit. Saturday was a Notre Dame team that walked into just about as hostile an environment i’ve ever seen at a football game and won. They won as a team. Defensively, yes, there is still undoubtedly lots of work to be done. I wont deny that because i really have no leg to stand on. In their defense (no pun intended) i will say that they also are much better than they’re given credit for. They simply need to fix the miscues in the secondary and start getting to the qb on the line. Defense can be tweaked to where even a not so talented one can become a threat just because they know how to play “assignment” football. Its been said already, discipline. Thankfully talent really isnt the issue on this team on either side of the ball. Its the mental errors. Again, there are ways around that and i’m sure that Tenuta and Weis alike will prove this. To see all of the negativity for Sam Young, the d line, Charlie Weis, the play calling etc. is actually quite sickening. Allow the coaches to do what they have to and the players to play. Sitting here criticizing a win is ridiculous. It was a much weaker Irish team playing in what i believe a more difficult game than people imagine. Give props to the entire team for sticking it out. Game ball goes to Jimmy Clausen without question. However, i was on here before that game Saturday and all i saw was Golden Tate being bashed for not “producing” how he should be. Not too much talk of that anymore huh? He kinda played a pretty thorough game. I swear, i love Notre Dame but the fans really put a damper on things. If its not one thing its another. Please, please, please, for the love of God, shutup and let these boys play.

  4. dan ergas - Sep 28, 2009 at 8:40 PM

    bashing tate? i recall posters and myself saying that he needs to stop dropping passes and then when he does hold on to stop with the show-boat stuff. there was no talk of that after the perdue game because he played a solid game…nuff said.

  5. dan ergas - Sep 28, 2009 at 8:45 PM

    geo, absoulutly agree about your asessment of the michigan game i thought the same thing

  6. ward47 - Sep 28, 2009 at 8:51 PM

    we won the game! without our qb rb se and gotit done were 3-1 stop hating and start loving go irish!

  7. ND1 - Sep 28, 2009 at 9:20 PM

    Kevin Woodard-“tate has been a real disapointment this year he really needs to step his game up”
    John- “How about we start with the showey crap, PLEASE STOP, the band jumps the ball taunting etc etc etc and start focusing on mistake free football GOLDEN, or I will apply to have your named changed to tarnished!!!”
    Richard Irish-“My advice to Golden Tate is this–don’t try to be a super ace receiver but just catch every ball thrown your way.”
    Ok, maybe bash was a little too strong. Ignorant seems to be a more sufficient replacement. How can you call a guy who had a few dropped passes and literally the entire secondary looking at him at all times a disappointment. If you’ve watched enough football you know that dropped passes happen. You play the game long enough, you get thrown to enough times, its inevitable. It WILL happen. Its not like he magically lost the ability to be a big threat, its that there was another guy on the field making plays in Michael Floyd. “I will apply to have your name changed to tarnished!!!”. Seriously dude, either thats a bad joke or a good joke poorly executed. Nonetheless, its unnecessary. True fans dont belittle their players, they usually send words of advice and try to bring them up. Being tactful and being an idiot are two different things. Thats comment was an example of the latter. “My adive to you is dont be a super ace reciever, just catch every ball thrown your way”. Golden Tate IS a super ace reciever dude. Again, dropping passes happens. I agree with catch everything that comes your way but you have to give room for mistakes. How would he ever get better? If he wasnt making mistakes he would be perfect and always be thrown the ball. Some of this just seems childish to me. I’m not trying to argue with anybody, i’m just a big fan, and when i see people trying to “bash” with little reason why it upsets me. I apologize.

  8. Joe - Sep 28, 2009 at 9:20 PM

    We love the Irish. Its just so disappointing to hear year in and out how this could be a great year and break our hearts again. What we are saying is that there better be some great improvement in all aspects because if they contuinue to play like this, it will be a long season. True they were missing many of their starters but what does Armando not in the backfield have anything to do with the poor performance of Duncan and Young? What does Jimmy on the sidelines have anything to do with Duval not lining up on the line of scrimmage? These need to be fixed now. They will not be playing PURDUE on Oct 17. They will not be playing Navada when they visit Palo Alto. Stop the excuses and get it fixed!

  9. Fan - Sep 29, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    I don’t need reminded to never sit next to any of you @ a game.

  10. Michael Ahern - Sep 29, 2009 at 2:58 PM

    Loved this post and agree with it- however, despite the fact I have much admiration for Charlie, his decisionto go for it on 4th and 10 in the 3rd quarter was inexcusable.Itleft Puirdue with great field position which they capitalized on,giving them an added boost.Ifnotfor Clausen, the Irish would have lost and Charlie would have been responsible.

  11. ND1 - Sep 29, 2009 at 3:21 PM

    I dont need to be reminded how lucky I was not to sit next to any of you in GRAMMAR school.

  12. JER ND13 - Sep 29, 2009 at 3:36 PM

    Ive been reading all these and what i dont get is on the 4th and 10 we were at the 34 yard line, why dont we kick a fg??? The kid showed that he can kick it 55 yards on the 47 yarder against MSU, that might have made it from 60. 3 points may have made a bigger difference then most people think. This team is really good, and i will back them no matter what. What is funny is that if we beat Michigan we are sitting around #7 in the polls. but if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we would all have a merry xmas. GO IRISH

  13. - Sep 29, 2009 at 9:03 PM

    …boy…check out #4 @ Sam Young…his mistakes are inexcusable…looks like a freshman

  14. domer54 - Sep 30, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    Sam Young is so just over-rated….he has shown zilch since he first started. Can’t understand why he has been a starter from day one but it shows he’s Charlie’s boy. Just bench him and put someone who can play and not rack-up penalties and nullify gainers. I’m glad this is his last year but he should be on the bench, not on the field !!

  15. ND58 - Oct 27, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    I agree that Sam Young is a total liability. He does not possess physical or mental agility. Spend part of the game just watching his ineptitude.

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