Notre Dame notebook – NevadaPublished 7:05pm Saturday, September 5, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – There were plenty of highs and very few lows for Notre Dame as it opened its season with a big win over Nevada.
The Fighting Irish did just about everything right, while Nevada had a hard time finding any rhythm at all.
In the end, Notre Dame posted a 35-0 win over the Wolf Pack to send the Irish faithful home happy.
Are are some game notes from the home opener:
Unlike the Oregon-Boise State game, the pre-game handshake between the Fighting Irish and the Wolf Pack was uneventful.
The show of sportsmanship actually got more action in the press box than on the field as reporters discussed the usefulness of the event.
After what happened on Thursday night, some wondered if the NCAA and the coaches association would suspend the practice.
In the reality of things, handshakes should be saved for after the game.
Weather or not
Warm temperatures greeted the two teams, but as the clocked clicked down toward game time, the clouds started to roll in and it at least looked like a fall afternoon even if it did feel like mid-summer outside.
Notre Dame decided to go with a pass on its first play from scrimmage, which is somewhat surprising since coach Charlie Weis continues to preach about establishing a running game.
The play resulted in a scramble by Jimmy Clausen.
The second play was a pass and so was the third play.
So much for establishing the running game!
Finally a run
It took four plays before the Irish finally ran the football. Armando Allen gained six yards, but Notre Dame went back to the air on the very next play bringing up the year’s first fourth and short play of the season.
Of course, Weis went for it.
James Aldridge gained two yards to net the first rushing first down of the 2009 season.
I thought Notre Dame was getting new scoreboards. Well they kind of did.
They look very similar to the old scoreboards with the exception of a new portion in the bottom middle, which replaced the old dot matrix screen allowing them to do a few more things.
I guess I was really hoping for something bigger and better like video replay.
Irish go Wildcat
Notre Dame broke out the Wildcat formation just inside the 25-yard line. The direct snap went to Allen, but the result was not good.
The Fighting Irish lost two yards on the play.
Rudolph comes up big again
The first Notre Dame touchdown of the season was a Clausen pass to Kyle Rudolph who appeared to pluck the ball away from the Nevada defender.
If the Irish are going to have a good season, Rudolph will be one of the reasons why.
Despite chewing up huge chunks of yardage on its first possession, Nevada came up empty after the drive stalled into the 25 and the field goal attempt was wide right.
Replay to begin the season
We didn’t even get out of the first quarter before they had to review a play.
Golden Tate caught a Clausen pass and was ruled out of bounds. Upon further review, the call was reversed and the Fighting Irish were in business at the Nevada 40-yard line.
Clausen looks sharp
Through the first quarter, Clausen looked extremely sharp throwing the football. His delivery was crisp and he spread the ball around. He was chased from the pocket twice, the second time resulting in the year’s first sack with less than a minute to go in the opening quarter.
The junior went 8-of-9 for 90 yards and a touchdown. He opened the second quarter with a laser to Michael Floyd to make it 14-0.
Clausen finished the day with his fourth career 300-yard plus afternoon and threw for four touchdowns.
Let the Heisman Trophy talk begin!
Nevada gave up 400 yards a game last season and looked as though they were going to do it again this season as the Fighting Irish rolled up 131 yards in the opening quarter.
The Fighting Irish threw for more than 300 yards alone against the Wolf Pack.
Off to a good start
Freshman kicker Nick Tausch, who won the starting job over much maligned Brandon Walker, was perfect on his first two collegiate extra points.
Tausch didn’t miss an extra point, looked good on kickoffs with the exception of his first and punted the ball well.
Perhaps Notre Dame can now put that nightmare from last season’s special team troubles to bed.
There is nothing I dislike more than television timeouts. Games that used to last two hours and now heading into the three and a half or more category.
It takes all the fun out of the game when you have to sit around for two or three minutes at a time staring at two teams standing around waiting on a commercial to end.
The real deal
Even though Colin Kaepernick had his struggles in the first half against the Notre Dame defense, you can see just how talented this kid is.
Although just a junior, not sure how he would fit into a pro system. He cannot just take off and run all the time and he doesn’t look patient enough to be a drop-back passer.
First appearance of Dayne Crist
In a Wildcat style offense, Crist takes the snap with Clausen set up as a wideout.
His first pass was complete for a modest 2-yard gain.
Running game grounded
After a good start, the Notre Dame running game seemed to bog down even though the Irish were having great success throwing the football.
The Irish gained 41 yards in the opening 15 minutes, but finished the half with only 88 yards.
Notre Dame picked up the pace in the second half and actually finished with a pretty good day running the football.
Plus, the Irish got to showcase a couple of different backs in the process.
Nevada’s Vai Taua had some great runs in the first half of the Wolf Pack. Nevada probably should have gone to him more to open up things for Kaepernick.
Solid first half
Notre Dame can be proud of its first half effort on both sides of the football.
No matter what you may think of their competition, the Irish took care of business on offense and defense.
Notre Dame rolled up an even 300 yards in total offense, while holding the ‘Pistol’ to just 162 yards.
Receivers make a difference
Clausen is looking like a Heisman candidate because his receivers are catching the ball no matter where he throws it.
Floyd has made a couple of great catches including an 88-yard beauty on an under thrown pass that turned into an 88-yard touchdown, the third longest TD in Notre Dame history.
Floyd, Tate and Rudolph may be the best trio of receivers in the country. That type of talent will make any quarterback look like a champion.
Penalties and turnovers
I was pretty amazed to see so few penalties and turnovers in a season opening game.
The contest was also pretty free of injuries with the exception of Aldridge, who was helped off the field with just under seven minutes to play in the third quarter.
Sticking with it
Despite being down 35 points late in the third quarter, the Wolf Pack continued to work their offense and didn’t sell out and try to throw on every down.
The result was a nice drive featuring Taua. However, his fumble heading into the end zone ended the threat.
Shades of Gray
Notre Dame back-up running back Jonas Gray looked solid as the back up for Allen, rushing for 50 yards on nine carries.
He showed the ability to shake loose a couple of times and also to power the ball through the middle of the offensive line.
First shut out
Saturday afternoon as the first shut out of the Weis era.
The last time Notre Dame shut out anyone it was Rutgers in 2002.
On to Ann Arbor
Both teams took care of business on Saturday and looked pretty impressive doing it.
Now with that first game experience tucked away, let’s see who has the better football team in 2009.