Clausen gets starting nod at QB against Penn State

Updated: September 4, 2007, 6:44 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame is turning to freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen against Penn State on Saturday hoping to revive an Irish offense that looked inept in a season-opening 33-3 loss at home to Georgia Tech.

"I think he gives us the best chance of winning," coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday.

Clausen of Westlake Village, Calif., was rated by many as the top high school recruit last year. He entered the opener last weekend as the third-stringer following offseason arm surgery, because he couldn't do enough in practice to contend for the starting job.

Weis said he chose Clausen to start against the Nittany Lions (1-0) because he is best at managing the team and because of his arm.

"I think he's ready to run the offense," Weis said. "If I didn't think he was ready I wouldn't do this. I think that he was always ready mentally. It's just his arm wasn't a full go until the end of last week."

Clausen was the top quarterback after spring practices, but was limited when practice began Aug. 6. He was recovering from the removal of a bone spur from his throwing elbow in the spring.

Jimmy Clausen
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Notre Dame's offensive plays will run through Jimmy Clausen, right, at least this weekend. The Irish play at No. 14 Penn State.

Weis didn't say he planned to abandon the spread offense the Irish used against Georgia Tech with Demetrius Jones starting at quarterback.

It appears the Irish will return to the offense Weis used as offensive coordinator to help the New England Patriots win three Super Bowl titles and the Irish ran the past two seasons with Brady Quinn. Both seasons the Irish were among the nation's top 15 in passing offense.

Asked whether the Irish would be more comfortable returning to their old offense, Weis said no one should feel comfortable after the way they played last week.

"But there is a comfort zone when you have more familiarity with what you're doing," he said.

Weis didn't say who will back up Clausen against Penn State.

Notre Dame was held to 130 yards passing against Georgia Tech, ranking them 94th of 113 teams. Clausen played the final two series and was 4-of-6 passing for 34 yards while being sacked once.

Jones started the game, going 1-of-3 passing for 4 yards and rushing 12 times for 28 yards. Four of the six drives he led ended in a three-and-out, and he fumbled on the other two possessions. Evan Sharpley was 10-of-13 passing for 92 yards and led the Irish to their only score, but was sacked seven times.

Clausen would be just the eighth freshmen to start at quarterback since 1951 -- and none of the previous seven started before the fourth game of the season. Brady Quinn was the most recent to do it. He was 29-of-59 passing for 297 yards in a 23-10 loss to Purdue in 2003.

The other six Irish QBs to accomplish the feat -- Matt LoVecchio in 2000, Paul Failla in 1991, Kent Graham in 1987, Steve Beuerlein in 1983, Blair Kiel in 1980 and Ralph Guglielmi in 1951 -- all won their first starts.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press