The Irish’s 35-0 dismantling of Nevada has a lot of people wondering what this means for Notre Dame this season. I’m not quite ready to project the future, but it was certainly a good way to start. Here are five things we learned:
1) Jimmy Clausen is ready for his close-up.
Clausen was in complete control today, looking composed in the pocket, decisive with his reads, and deadly accurate with the football. Even his three incompletions were nice throws. Clausen did a nice job early stepping up in the pocket, especially on the first play of the game when the deep ball wasn’t open. Clausen’s passer rating was in the mid-300s, which I think qualifies as a pretty nice day at the office.
2) The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.
Stat of the day: Notre Dame averaged 8.8 yards a play in the first half. For the first time since 2006, the Irish looked competent running the ball, which is especially encouraging with Nevada’s run defense ranked so highly last year. Armando Allen consistently got the corner when the Irish stretched the field on the ground, and the ability to run really opened up the play-action passing game.
3) The offensive weapons are legit.
Michael Floyd should be a first round draft pick. Golden Tate probably could be as well. And tight-end Kyle Rudolph might evolve into one as well. Add in Jimmy Clausen to the draft projections, and the sheer artillery is a sign of things to come. We won’t know quite how good Notre Dame truly is until next week when they play in enemy territory, but today’s impressive output was quite an airshow. Floyd’s touchdown catches, Tate’s explosiveness, and Rudolph’s first-quarter TD grab might be a sign that the vertical passing game that Weis established in his first two seasons has been resurrected.
4) Jon Tenuta is going to bring the house.
Tenuta served notice that he’ll be bringing the house early and often. With a 35-0 lead in the fourth quarter, Tenuta still brought the heat, not sitting back and playing it conservative, but attacking with linebackers, defensive backs, and anybody else on the field. The change back to the 4-3 seemed to go smoothly, and Tenuta’s the perfect coach to lead the transition. Expect even more heat next weekend, when Michigan breaks in a freshman quarterback against a team that doesn’t have a direction in its name.
5) Manti Te’o is a stud.
The freshman made quite a debut today. He was all over the field, running down Kaepernick from behind after blitzing off the snap on his first play. He made a great read on a middle screen and blew up two different Nevada players with some very big hits. Te’o will most likely see the field often against Rich Rodriguez’s Wolverines next week, utilizing his speed and ability to move in space to run down Michigan’s spread offense.