Maybe Irish can finally break out smiles this year
Here’s what the crew at CFN thought about Notre Dame’s 35-0 win over Nevada on Saturday:
Talk about ramping up expectations big-time. Blowing up a Nevada team that might challenge for the WAC title has just set the tone for the season. It would’ve been one thing if the Irish had won, 35-17, and looked good doing it, but it’s a whole other stratosphere the team might be heading into when it’s as razor-sharp as it played. This was everything Notre Dame fans have been dreaming the offense could and should be, with an ultra-efficient passing game (going 17 of 20 for 332 yards and four touchdowns), explosiveness to not just take a game over, but also put it away, and enough of a rushing attack to provide a little bit of balance. The defense kept a running game that’s going to be among the 10 best in America to a mere 153 yards and never let the Pack into the game, but the offense didn’t need much help. This was the maturation of a team and a program that needed to be totally broken down and then built back up again, and though it’s just one game, enjoy it, Irish lovers. You’ve had a rough go of it, and for one week, at least, enjoy the possibilities.
Although Jimmy Clausen threw four touchdown passes in a near-perfect performance, the number that mattered most in South Bend was zero.
Notre Dame pitched its first shutout in seven years, quieting for the time some of the concerns about its defense. And this wasn’t just any whitewash. The Irish blanked potent Nevada, just the third time that’s happened in Chris Ault’s quarter-century as the Pack head coach. It brought the heat from every possible angle, a recurring theme, creating three turnovers and making QB Colin Kaepernick look ordinary.
Of course, as you might expect, Clausen will continue to be the story. In his past two games — both against overmatched WAC defenses — he has thrown more scoring passes than incompletions, and his receivers are among the best in the country. Enter Michigan, which doesn’t play in the WAC and is coming off an impressive opener of its own. If Clausen remains on a roll in Ann Arbor, it’ll be time to put the Heisman and BCS hype machines into overdrive.
OK, OK, we get it: Notre Dame can beat non-Boise State members of the upper half of the Western Athletic Conference. The biggest national story from this game, weirdly enough, is that it will reflect very negatively on Boise State’s remaining schedule. For the WAC to come up so small on such a big stage (Nevada didn’t have to win, but the Wolfpack did need to produce a credible showing) represents a sizable black mark for the conference.
The echoes were shaking down all over the place in South Bend, but that’s what’s supposed to happen when Nevada comes to town to open the season. QB Jimmy Clausen looked sharp, and the Irish offense appeared to have the weapons necessary to have a pretty successful season. Beating up on Nevada doesn’t make Lou Holtz’s forecast of ND in the national title game come true, but it sure gives Charlie Weis a little breathing room heading into his make-or-break year. The Irish showed the ability to move the ball over land or through the air, and Clausen picked up where he left off against Hawaii in the bowl game last year. A lot has been made about the ease of ND’s schedule this year, and the lay-down by Nevada Saturday made everybody who has criticized the slate look like they knew a whole lot. Next Saturday in Ann Arbor, we’ll learn a little more about the Irish, but in Weis’ opening ’09 act, things looked pretty good.