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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Clausen better prepared for Michigan

Thursday, September 11, 2008


AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Michigan won't see the same Jimmy Clausen it rattled a year ago when the Wolverines embarrassed Notre Dame 38-0.

Clausen was making just his second start and the Wolverines took advantage. He fumbled the ball away to set up the Wolverines' first touchdown, threw an interception to set up their third TD, and was sacked eight times, including once getting hit by four defenders. He was so beat up he didn't play the fourth quarter.

Asked this week about the game, Clausen said: "I just know I was knocked down a few times."

It was the story of last season as Clausen and the Irish stumbled to a 3-9 finish. Clausen concedes he barely knew enough to do his job, never mind helping others know what they were supposed do.

"I was pretty much overwhelmed," Clausen said.

This is a different season, though.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis talked throughout the preseason about giving his sophomore quarterback more freedom because Clausen understood the offense so much better. Clausen proved Weis correct last Saturday, calling audibles on plays that resulted in Notre Dame's first two touchdowns.

Weis said the first TD pass to Michael Floyd is the best example of the difference in Clausen this season.

"He turns to him, tells him to run a go and the next thing you know, it's six," Weis said.

Clausen said he called "a handful" of audibles during the game, something he said he did only a couple times last season, when he was thrown in as the starter before he was physically or mentally ready. His arm was still recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery and his head was swirling trying to grasp Weis' complex playbook.

Months of studying film, another year of spring practice and working out with his teammates over the summer changed things. He not only knew the offense, if a teammate was confused, Clausen could tell him what he was supposed to be doing.

"It's easy to follow someone like Jimmy. He has a real commanding style. A confidence about him," guard Eric Olsen said. "His performance since the spring has been real reassuring. So it's been really easy for me as a person to put my confidence in him as a leader."

Still, for much of Saturday's game Clausen, the top high school recruit in 2007, was outplayed by San Diego State redshirt freshman Ryan Lindley, a much less heralded member of that same class.

Through three quarters, Lindley was 25-of-48 passing for 238 yards with one interception and one touchdown pass. Clausen was 14-of-25 for 139 yards with two interceptions and one TD pass.

Then the Irish went into their no huddle offense. Clausen completed 8-of-9 passes for 98 yards, leading Notre Dame on touchdown drives of 80 and 55 yards to rally for the 21-13 victory.

"He was playing his best ball as the game went on," Weis said.

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