Four things witnessed over the weekend, with a little video assist.
1. Jimmy Clausen is bigger, stronger, and better.
The Weis offense clicked in '05 and '06 because quarterback Brady Quinn possessed mastery of offense's philosophy "take what the defense gives you." Last year Clausen and the other Irish quarterbacks took what the defense was giving them to the tune of 58 sacks. But in the first game of this year, we witnessed flashes of a young quarterback's maturation. Clausen moved through his progressions more quickly and with greater efficacy; he also changed his wide receivers' routes at the line of scrimmage.
Watch Floyd's touchdown. Clausen audibles before the snap and sends him to the end zone, then throws a fade ball for the touchdown. It doesn't get any better than this.
He turns to him, tells him to run a go; next thing you know, it's six. I don't think that that ever happened -- that's one more than last year, just from that example."2. Clausen is still only a sophomore, and teaching moments abound.
No play illustrates this more than the second interception, which occurred immediately after an Aztec turnover.
I would have liked for him to throw the ball to the other side away from rotation to try to make a play. I talked to him afterwards and said sometimes you've just got to take the profit.San Diego State shows blitz on the left side. The cornerback covering Kamara has given him a huge cushion. Given the zone blitzes that the Aztecs defense had previously used in the game, this one seems poorly disguised. Finding David Grimes or Kyle Rudolph to the right may not have resulted in the payday that Clausen wanted, but he needs to take what the defense is giving him. These are the kinds of mistakes that disappear over time with experience and film study.
3. Mike Haywood needs to realize that situational playcalling isn't just about looking up a play on his chart; he needs to consider the actual distance to pick up a first down when sending in a play.
Within the first eleven plays the Irish would run, the offense faced 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3, and 3rd-and-2. Not only did the Irish choose to pass each time, but they lined up with three wide receivers each time; on the first attempt, Rudolph also split wide, giving the Irish four receivers. The threat of the run seemed non-existent. Charlie tried to explain it in his Sunday presser:
On the 2-[yard] to 5-[yard] plays when the staff does their research, I tell them to give them the best stuff, whatever the best stuff is, and if the best stuff is a run, they call a run, and if the best stuff is a pass, they call a pass. I was letting them go with what they thought was best.The Irish later faced a 3rd-and-5 situation and lined up in the I-formation. A play action fake (rendered worthless given earlier situational play-calling) was followed by four man pressure that forced Clausen to roll out of the pocket and fire an incomplete pass to Golden Tate.
A search of the BGS game chart archives led to an interesting find. Only one other time in 2005 and 2006 did the Irish line up with a fullback on 3rd and 5. Is this really one of our best situational plays, as Weis alluded to in our presser?
It would seem that, if Haywood wanted to call a pass, the I-formation play might have worked better in the earlier 3rd-and short situations. And any of the earlier pass plays might have fared better on 3rd and 5. Food for thought for the novice play-caller.
4. Lacrosse > Basketball, at least when it comes to blocking.
Freshman beanpole Kyle Rudolph struggled in blocking at times against SDSU. When lax man Will Yeatman was on the line of scrimmage as the "Y" receiver (fixed on the line, as opposed to motioning or lining up in the slot), the Irish ran three times for 18 yards (6.0 ypc). But with Rudolph as a blocking "Y", the Irish ran 15 times for just 41 yards (2.7 ypc). Twice he allowed the backside DE to clean up the play from behind, and once he couldn't seal the end.
This is admittedly not a huge sample upon which to make a judgment, but a lightweight freshman tight end against Michigan ends Tim Jamison or Brandon Graham is not a favorable matchup in the run game. There are still plenty of snaps available to Rudolph as the second, or "move" TE, in the game, but for basic running, Yeatman should be the choice against the Wolverines.