#8: Michael Floyd and Jimmy Clausen vs. Nevada (September 5th, 2009)
The Stat Line:
Floyd: 4 catches, 189 Receiving Yards (47.3 YPC), 3 Receiving TD
Clausen: 15 for 18 (83.3%), 315 Passing Yards (17.5 YPA), 4 TD, 0 INT
The Final Score:
#23 Notre Dame 35 - Nevada 0
After two emotional, gut it out performances in huge games for Notre Dame, we reach our first purely statistically impressive game in our top 10. It ranks as the 7th highest performance by Chase Stuart's adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) statistic in college since 2005, clocking in at an amazing 21.9 ANY/A.
As a beneficiary of Jimmy Clausen's incredible efficiency in this game, Michael Floyd pulled down 4 catches for 189 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, giving him an other-worldly 47.3 yards per catch average.
The game against Nevada was the first of the 2009 season, Jimmy Clausen's junior (and final) season at Notre Dame, and Notre Dame was expected to continue to build on a semi-successful 2008 (following the disaster that was 2007). The last Irish fans saw Clausen & Co. operate was on Christmas Eve 2008 in a dismantling of Hawai'i - and the first they got to see of him in 2009 gave Irish fans everywhere a little hope that the rebuilding effort that started in 2007 had begun to take hold at Notre Dame.
The Nevada game started off quickly for the Irish, scoring on their first possession; a 12-play, 67 yard drive that was capped off by a 19 yard TD pass to Kyle Rudolph. Clausen went 5 for 6 on this first drive, and set the tone for the ruthless efficiency that would continue for the rest of the afternoon, led by the performances of Clausen and Michael Floyd:
Floyd recorded his second catch, a 24 yard TD, on the first play of the 2nd quarter - a beautiful post route after Rudolph cleared the safety from the middle of the field. On the second play of the next offensive possession, Clausen and Floyd connected on a 70 yard TD off of a simple bubble screen, which marked the second of three touchdowns the Irish would score in the quarter, essentially putting the game out of reach for Colin Kaepernick and the Wolf Pack. I don't think there has ever been a more "Michael Floyd" play than this one. It always seemed like he was catching balls at the LOS and making teams pay with his physicality and surprising speed.
The first offensive possession of the third quarter started with three straight rushes by Armando Allen in the shadow of Notre Dame's own goal line. On 1st and 10 from the ND 12, Clausen found Floyd for a mammoth 88 yard touchdown pass (but still 8 yards shy of the ND record held by Blair Kiel & Joe Howard). I stand corrected from earlier. THIS is the most "Michael Floyd" play ever - going up to win a jump ball, shrugging off a defender with ease, and easily striding to the end zone.
With the Irish up 35-0 and Nevada posing little threat on the other side of the ball, Charlie Weis called off the dogs and allowed Dayne Crist to complete the handoffs for the remainder of the game, starting the Irish off 1-0 on the season.
Clausen would go on to have arguably one of the best seasons (passing-wise) of any signal-caller at Notre Dame, throwing for 3722 yards and 28 touchdowns on only 4 interceptions. For the full 2009 season, Clausen maintained a QB rating of 161.4 - and even threw in 3 rushing touchdowns for good measure.
Floyd would again show the promise he had brought to the table in 2008 as a freshman by posting a nearly identical line in his 2009 sophomore season: 44 catches for 795 yards and 9 touchdowns. The following year in 2010, he would easily take up the slack left behind by Golden Tate and become the number 1 threat for the Irish on the outside.
On their best days, Clausen & Floyd were both unstoppable. When those best days happened at the same time, we get a game like the Nevada game. Truly a dominant game from the Irish offense right from the coin flip; spearheaded by one of the most efficient passing performances in school history from Clausen, and the physicality and explosiveness of Floyd.
#8 - Michael Floyd & Jimmy Clausen vs. Nevada (September 5th, 2009)
#9 -- Everett Golson vs. Pittsburgh (November 3rd, 2012)
#10 -- Julius Jones & Joey Getherall vs. #1 Nebraska (September 9th, 2000)