By Joe Pierce, Domer Sports Report
I hope Saturday's performance by the San Diego State Aztecs was a case of South Bend Fever inferior teams sometimes get when visiting South Bend. It's a funny virus, that South Bend Fever - it makes teams play over their heads for three hours, only for them return to being whipping posts for the rest of their conference. Without David Bruton's timely strip and recovery at the Irish goal line and Jimmy Clausen's late-game heroics, there's no way Charlie Weis would be using phrases like "I'll take an ugly win any day of the week..."
However, the Irish did win, and while they didn't win any style points Saturday, they're 1-0 heading into a showdown with archrival Michigan. They can also hang their hats on some terrific individual performances. Jimmy Clausen, new surfer ‘do and all, has officially arrived as the leader of Notre Dame's offense. He rebounded from two Duval Kamara mistakes that gift-wrapped interceptions for San Diego State to have his best quarter of football since he laced them up for Oaks Christian. In the 4th quarter, Clausen was 5-5 for 76 yards & 3-4 for 22 yards with touchdowns on both drives, clinching the win for the Irish. Clausen's poise and confidence, I'm sure, reassured all Irish fans that the program's in capable hands moving forward.
Golden Tate also proved that he's ready to be a full-range WR for this team. Even during slow patches, Tate showed the skill and determination of a #1 receiver. Tate finished with 6 catches for 93 yards and a score. If Duval Kamara can rebound from his poor game and Michael Floyd continues to emerge, the Irish receivers should give defensive coordinators something to worry about.
Saturday also proved to be a coming out party for safety Sergio Brown, who finished with 6 tackles and 2 pass break-ups. Even though Kyle McCarthy was the star statistically with 14 tackles, Brown's presence and big-hitting ability set the tone for a very good outing by a much-improved Irish defense. Though they only managed one sack and had a hard time syncing their blitzes with the snap count, they were stout through most of the game and didn't give San Diego State a whole lot to exploit.
The Irish offensive line also made itself known to the Aztec defense, keeping Jimmy Clausen clean for the first time in his career. In fact, there wasn't a game at all last season where the quarterback wasn't sacked at least once. Let's see what they do against the talented Wolverine front seven next week.
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention the fine game by San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley. Though his stats don't pop out at you (29-59-1-1), the redshirt freshman showed great maturity, leadership, and a quick release that nullified most of Jon Tenuta's blitzes.
Mistakes seem less important when your team wins, but I'm sure Charlie Weis will be drilling them into the heads of his players as he prepares them for a visit from Rich Rodriguez and 1-1 Michigan. He'll be smart to.
San Diego St.: RYAN LINDLEY 1 YD RUN (LANE YOSHIDA KICK)
Notre Dame: MICHAEL FLOYD 22 YD PASS FROM JIMMY CLAUSEN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
San Diego St.: DARREN MOUGEY 15 YD PASS FROM RYAN LINDLEY (MISSED KICK)
Notre Dame: GOLDEN TATE 38 YD PASS FROM JIMMY CLAUSEN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
Notre Dame: DAVID GRIMES 6 YD PASS FROM JIMMY CLAUSEN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
By Joe Pierce, Domer Sports Report
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