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Weis considers starting Sharpley over Clausen Saturday

Sunday, October 14, 2007


AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame might use its third starting quarterback of the season when the Fighting Irish face No. 13 USC on Saturday.

Coach Charlie Weis said Sunday he had not decided whether to stay with freshman Jimmy Clausen, who has started the past five games, or switch to junior Evan Sharpley, who has rallied the Irish (1-6) in the second halves to pull Notre Dame close against Purdue and Boston College.

Weis will announce his decision Tuesday.

The Irish opened the season with Demetrius Jones starting in a 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech. He was replaced by Sharpley, who was replaced by Clausen as all three were ineffective. Jones left the team a week after Clausen was named the starter for the second game against Penn State.

Sharpley has maintained a good attitude, saying he trusts the coaches to make the right decision.

"It's not up to me. It's up to other people," Sharpley said after the game Saturday. "Hopefully I keep improving and we keep improving and getting better."

Sharpley has been improving and closing the gap on Clausen, Weis said.

"Every week it's closer," he said.

Weis has repeatedly said Clausen has been the starter because he's been more accurate throwing. The statistics back him up. Clausen is 81-of-141 passing for a 57.4 completion rate, while Sharpley is 43-of-80 with a 53.8 completion rate.

Weis indicated the numbers aren't as close in practice, so Sharpley needs to look better in practice.

"If he wants to move past Jimmy, which I know he does, it's got to be an every day thing, it can't just be a game day thing," he said.

The more telling stat, though, might be that Sharpley has thrown slightly more than half as many passes as Clausen but has three TD passes to Clausen's one. Sharpley has thrown two interceptions to Clausen's five and has a 111.42 pass efficiency rating to Clausen's 89.51.

Immediately after Clausen was yanked for throwing his second interception against BC -- leading to a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 20-0 lead -- Sharpley led the Irish on a seven-play, 79-yard scoring drive. He was 4-of-7 passing during the drive connecting on passes of 28, 2, 15 and 19 yards.

That 64 yards was 4 yards more than Clausen passed for in the entire first half.

Notre Dame has seven offensive touchdowns this season. Clausen has led them on TD drives of 9, 80 and 2 yards. Sharpley has led them on drives of 37, 81, 79 and 79 yards.

Part of the reason Clausen has struggled more in games may be the speed, Weis said.

"Things happen a lot faster on game day than they do in practice. They happen a lot faster," Weis said. "I think in practice, he's got everything under control. On game day, obviously, the games happen faster."

Clausen could benefit by watching from the sideline, Weis said.

"Because you can see things happening before they happen, because you don't have the pressure of being underneath the center and calling the snap count and signaling the motion and all those other things. You can actually see it happening as it's happening when you're on the sidelines," he said.

Tight end John Carlson said the players believe in both quarterbacks.

"They've both proven that they have the ability to get the job done," he said.

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