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Let's Talk About Jimmy Clausen's Performance in 2009

We're still figuring out Jimmy Clausen's legacy.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We expect our quarterbacks to play at a high level on a consistent basis. The best signal callers aren't supposed to have bad games. At least this is how I perceive the way a lot of people view college quarterbacks.

Which is weird because even the best quarterbacks on earth in the NFL have bad games. On November 11th, 2007 Peyton Manning threw 6 picks in a loss to the Chargers. This past season Aaron Rodgers went 17 of 42 with two interceptions in a loss to the Bills. Four years ago, Tom Brady also went into Orchard Park and tossed 4 interceptions in a loss to the Bills.

It happens.

Maybe it's the greater discrepancy in talent level in many college games. Maybe it's that NFL quarterbacks typically shoulder so much of the offense and more slack is cut. Maybe it's that college careers are so short and there are usually highly recruited backups waiting to take over. Maybe it's that one loss in college can shatter dreams.

Whatever it is, it sure seems like NFL fans are much more patient and willing to roll with the punches when a flop of a performance befalls the quarterback of their team. College fans, on the other hand, are much more willing to bury a quarterback when a bad game or two happen.

Everett Golson is currently navigating his way through this web of doubt.

Just before this past Halloween, Golson was the Heisman contender, winner of 17 out of 18 career starts, and the guy who held the best interception to passes ratio in school history. He also just engineered what should have been the game-winning touchdown pass on the road against No. 2 defending champion Florida State.

If you take the first half of the Arizona State game and the first half of the USC game, you have one really bad game from Everett Golson. If you want to get really picky and hold him to a high standard there were other moments of cracking but by and large those two combined halves equaled Golson's worst 4-quarter performance of his career.

College football fans love, and I mean they really love, to pretend that players' careers are linear--most especially for quarterbacks.

"Golson got worse as the season went on."

This is how Golson putting up the highest QB rating that Louisville surrendered all season (by a country mile) in the 11th game and his quality performance in the last game Notre Dame played during the bowl can be ignored.

Thanks for everything, Everett, but we've seen all we need to see, you cannot improve, you're just too turnover prone, and we're ready to move on. Heisman contender to not Heisman contender. Simple as that. See ya later.


Now, let's talk about Jimmy Clausen's junior year performance.

Clausen's legacy at Notre Dame is so confusing that I wouldn't even know where to start discussing that monster. At least 50 years from now I think we'll still be scratching our heads over his time with the Irish.

Remember how depressing the end to the 2008 season was for Clausen?

Shutout at BC with 4 picks, no touchdowns and 2 more picks in a near-catastrophic loss to Navy, that revolting Syracuse game where everyone fell asleep during the second half, capped off by 41 yards and two more picks in a blowout loss to USC. It was about as bad of an end to a regular season as you'll find.

I bring up Golson above not to guarantee or predict future success but to point out that quarterbacks making big improvements is a heck of a lot more common than a quarterback playing amazing in every single game.

And Clausen nearly pulled off both feats in 2009.


Okay, technically not quite 2009 (it was 6 days until the new calendar year though!) but the bowl game was a sign that things were going to be different for junior year Clausen.

Here Clausen leans off the back foot and drops a rainbow for the score. God bless Golden Tate's touchdown celebrations.

Let's throw another one in there for good measure. I remember watching this throw and thinking no way was there enough room to complete this pass. At this point, we hadn't fully appreciated the Jedi connection of Clausen and Tate.

Clausen finished with a 277.63 passer rating. Surely, he'd never top that again.


Ah, the excitement of the opener and knowing that Colin Kaepernick would be frustrated by what turned out to be the worst defense in ND history. Clausen dropped another looping rainbow to Tate again. No way was this in bounds--listen to how sure Tom Hammond is that this is incomplete. In bounds, it was.

No one could keep up this pace but Clusen finished with a 303.66 passer rating here for a back-to-back game total of 37 of 44 for 716 yards, 9 touchdowns, and zero picks.


Re-watching 2009 highlights you remember just how often Clausen destroyed defenses with the out-route. It was an all day can't be stopped affair.

Clausen's 336 yards were the most by an Irish quarterback in this rivalry. Although, the following year the trio of Crist/Montana/Rees would combine for 381 yards against Michigan--buoyed by that 95-yard toss by Crist.

Michigan State

Obviously, the Tate Band Jump is one everyone remembers. That could be Clausen's best throw of his career, for one, and a wonderful celebration of Tate's youthful exuberance.

Let us not forget this picture perfect corner route, though.

It's too bad Michael Floyd broke his collarbone in this game and would miss the next 5 contests. Can you imagine what Clausen would have done with Floyd healthy during that stretch?


Not only did Floyd get hurt but Clausen bent his toe back against State and would play the rest of the season on a foot that would need surgery and bother him well into the off-season while he prepared for the NFL.

So he shared time with Dayne Crist against Purdue and ended up finishing the game with this game-winning pass.

Clausen's first interception of the season came in this game. With less than 20 seconds left in the first half and just outside field goal range he tossed a ball into the end zone that was picked off by Purdue's David Pender.


Over the years this game has been sort of lost in the shuffle but it was a highly entertaining affair that went into overtime and featured 8 lead changes.

Here we got a patented Clausen spin in the pocket to find Tate over the middle. GTIII took it from there and did the rest.

Clausen's second interception occurred in this game--a pretty routine pass to Armando Allen that deflected off the backs's hands and into the arms of a Washington defender.


You have to wonder what would have happened after 2009 if Notre Dame completed this comeback against USC.

Pound for pound this is probably my favorite throw by Clausen. If Tate could have stayed on his feet, and if the Trojan band was on the sidelines and Golden jumped into them for the second time, I would have died of happiness then and there.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the incomplete 3rd down pass to Duval Kamara with 1 second left that would have tied the game--which by the way was preceded by what, to this day, I still believe was a touchdown catch by Kyle Rudolph.

At least we could leave this game knowing that, while Kamara slipped making his cut and the ball fell to the ground, we could hold our head high with the traditional Kentucky bluegrass turf. I know it made me feel better.

Boston College

We forget it now but there was a time when Boston College had won 6 straight meetings against the Irish. This dreary afternoon saw the Eagles leading for most of the third quarter.

Until another quick out results in six points for ND.

That would turn out to the game-winning touchdown to end that distasteful losing streak.

Washington State

The dawn of the Shamrock Series! Also, the last win for Clausen, Weis, and everyone else who graduated, transferred, or moved on to the NFL following the season.

The only memorable moments from this game would be Dayne Crist's late touchdown pass to John Goodman (Crist was going to be awesome!) and this silly Hail Mary.

We should probably publish an appreciation of Golden Tate, too. I found it surprising that he has only 3,526 yards and 19 touchdowns in the NFL so far, although Tate did lead the NFL in catch to target ratio during his time in Seattle, just put up his first 1,000 yard season with Detroit, and should continue to flourish with the Lions.


This damn game. So much went wrong in this one that it's not worth even repeating.

Michael Floyd comes back from his injury and dominates with 10 catches, 141 yards, but gets one call mixed up leading to Clausen's third interception of the season. No, this ball couldn't have fallen harmlessly to the ground. No, it had to bounce square off Floyd's back and directly into a Navy linebacker's arms.

Clausen did set career highs in completions, attempts, and yards in this game. His 37 completions remains a school record.


If there was one game from 2009 where Clausen really didn't have the magic it was this night game in the Steel City. Notre Dame didn't score a touchdown until a Clausen sneak early in the fourth quarter. Even then, he completed 27/42 for 283 and another touchdown--not exactly a flop.

That's Clausen's final interception of the season, featuring Floyd getting tackled in double coverage. With the way things went that night the Irish weren't getting that call.


Remember when the fade pass to Samardzija, Floyd, and Rudolph was a fun play that resulted in a lot of touchdowns? Oh, to be naive.

I hate this game in so many ways. Let's move on.


Admit it, this game was fun.

Just about everyone knew Charlie Weis was a goner, and while it would have been nice to beat Stanford just cause, it was entertaining to watch this back-and-forth affair with Clausen (340 yards, 5 touchdowns), Tate (201 yards, 3 touchdowns), and Floyd (85 yards, 2 touchdowns) seemingly going through an early Pro Day workout against air. Oh yeah, and we couldn't stop Toby Gerhart, either.

And just like that the season was over--as was Clausen's career in the blue and gold.

Playing for most of the year with two torn ligaments in his plant foot he set the new school record for passer rating in a season at 161.43