Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jimmah! and the Aztecs: Part Two

This post continues my look at Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen's performance against San Diego State last week. Without further ado, the second half (first half can be found here).

Ninth Drive:

2nd and 13: Swing to Allen for 3 yards.
3rd and 10: Shotgun; runs from pocket and delivers off-target pass that is too high for Rudolph to haul in.

Drive ends in punt.

Tenth Drive:

1st and 10: Fade to Kamara; overthrown and intercepted. The pass was not there and Clausen should probably never have thrown that pass. It seems like he went with his first read and threw it without looking at the coverage.

Eleventh Drive:

No passes; drive ends on fumble by Allen.

Twelfth Drive:

1st and 10: PA rollout; completion to Tate for 10 yards. Throw is a little low from Clausen but a nice catch by Tate.
2nd and 5: Quick flare to TE Yeatman for 4 yards. Nobody around him.

Drive ends with punt.

Thirteenth Drive:

1st and 10: Finds Hughes sitting in middle of field wide open. 8 yard gain.
1st and 10: Slant to Tate. Clausen hits a window about the size of a Mike & Ike, again showing off his arm strength.

1st and 10: Another slant to Tate. Almost identical to previous play. 15 yards. Jimmah(!) bears frightening resemblance to RoboHenne.
1st and 10: Screen to Allen for 5.
2nd and 5: Streak to Tate for touchdown.

Another perfectly placed pass by Clausen. He looked really, really good on this drive.

Fourteenth Drive:

2nd and 10: Screen to Allen for 10 yards. Long developing play; Clausen actually did a good job of hitting Allen in the face of pressure.
2nd and 15: Threw deep comeback route to Tate, thrown 20 yards on a rope. Catch was called out of bounds, but a solid throw nonetheless. ND looks like it could (and possibly should) have challenged.
3rd and 15: Had Tate on streak, but Tate has to lay out and traps ball on ground. Would have gone for 40 yards. Pass interference keeps drive alive, but had nothing to do with play. I'm sure Irish fans would have liked for Clausen to throw a perfect strike to Tate, but throw was catchable (albeit difficult).
2nd and 7: Quick out to Grimes; 6 yard gain.
2nd and G from 6: Corner fade to Grimes for touchdown. Clausen puts the ball exactly where it has to go.

Notre Dame had one more drive after this, but it was entirely comprised of clock-killing runs.

Clausen's final stat line: 21-34, 237 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, no sacks.

My impressions:
  • His arm is way stronger than it was last year. Not only that, but his decision-making seems to have improved as well. Besides the one bad interception on the overthrown fade, Clausen did a great job of making safe throws when necessary and going downfield when he had one-on-one coverage. If given the time, he can make any throw he wants to.
  • Having said that, I'm still unsure about his pocket presence. San Diego State got almost no pressure on him, thanks to a completely depleted defensive line (the Aztecs were playing their best linebacker at DE, to give you some perspective). However, the one time they were able to get pressure (during the third drive, on 3rd and 10) Clausen completely lost his mind and should have been hit with an intentional grounding flag. If Michigan is able to get some pressure on Clausen (and I think they will), there is definite Yakety Sax potential.
  • Michigan needs to force Clausen to make more intermediate throws. Almost all of his passes against San Diego State came either on wide-open dumpoffs, screens, or fades/streaks. There was nothing thrown deep over the middle all game, and the only intermediate stuff thrown over the middle was the two lazer-like slants to Tate and a couple crossing routes where nobody was within 10 yards of the receiver. Clausen has to prove he can make those throws, especially if Michigan gets some heat on him.
It may be a complete waste of time to try to assess Clausen's maturation based on a game against a team that lost to Cal-Poly in week one. However, as Michigan fans should know by now, no matter who a team plays against the quarterback has to execute on his throws. Clausen executed against the Aztecs. He will certainly go up against a much better defense in Michigan, but the Wolverines have to be prepared for a better Jimmah(!) than the guy they saw last year. The key, clearly, is going to be getting solid pass rush and forcing Clausen to make quick decisions with the ball. If he has time, he will pick us apart.

Just for kicks:


I'll be at the game on Saturday, so a special "Overheard at Notre Dame Stadium" post may be coming on Monday, depending on where my seats are. Go Blue!

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