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Clauson seeks to take what Navy gives him

Thursday, November 13, 2008


AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND -- After three games of trying to force things, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen said this week he'll take whatever Navy will give.

Clausen, who had the flu when he threw a career-high four interceptions in a 17-0 loss to Boston College last Saturday, said he's heeding the advice of his coaches and will stop trying to force long passes when receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate are covered. He's going to settle for smaller gains.

"It's just take what the defense gives you," he said.

Clausen said that's been harder to do since halftime of the North Carolina game. That's when the Tar Heels started focusing on keeping Clausen from throwing deep, a strategy that Washington, Pittsburgh and Boston College have all copied knowing the Irish have an ineffective running game, averaging just 71.5 yards a game in Notre Dame's four losses.

Clausen threw for career-high yardage in three straight games against Purdue, Stanford and Carolina, going from 275 yards to 347 yards to 383 yards. In the three games since, though, he's averaged 233 yards a game passing.

Heading into halftime at North Carolina, he had thrown 131 passes without an interception. Since then, he's thrown seven interceptions in 140 pass attempts. For the season, up until halftime against North Carolina, Clausen had a pass efficiency rating of 143.7. Since then, he's had a rating of 108.8 and the Irish (5-4) have lost three of four -- their sole win coming against Washington (0-9).

Clausen said his performance against Boston College, the first time he's gone without a TD pass this year, taught him a lesson.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said it's not unusual for a quarterback eager to make something happen to try to force something, recalling that when he was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots Tom Brady threw four interceptions against the Miami Dolphins in a 30-10 loss in 2001, the season of the team's first Super Bowl title.

"This is a guy going to the Hall of Fame, winning Super Bowls. So I think what he would tell you, which is the same thing that Jimmy would tell you, is that he was just trying to make a play," Weis said. "What you have to do as a coach is explain to him sometimes taking a sack is a good thing."

The good news for Clausen is he's about to face two of the nation's worst pass defenses. Navy is ranked 108th in pass efficiency defense and Syracuse (2-7) is 107th.

The only way to stop Clausen from trying to force things is to keep reminding him and showing him on film where he could have done better by dumping off to a different receiver, quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus said. Clausen said he understands.

"Once you throw the ball underneath, dink and dunk teams and you can run the ball and make teams come up and guard the underneath stuff, make them stop the run," Clausen said. "Then they come up and you have shots down the field that you can throw and make plays."

Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood said part of the problem against Pittsburgh and Boston College may have been mental errors by the entire offense because the game plans were too complex.

"When you look at the number of mental errors we had, it could be information overload. It's not the players' fault, it's the coaches' fault, it's my fault. It starts with me," he said.

He predicts the game plan this week, with Weis calling the plays, will be simpler.

Left tackle Mike Turkovich said the entire offense got frustrated by how they played against Boston College.

"You just don't understand what's happening, what are we doing wrong? Why aren't we able to run the ball?" he said.

Notre Dame hopes to solve those problems against Navy (6-3), a team that a year ago ended a 43-game losing streak against the Irish. The Irish just want to keep it simple.

"We just need to gather the team and rally around and get the team going again," Clausen said.

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