SAN ANTONIO – Before he took his first snap in college, Jimmy Clausen arrived on the Notre Dame campus in a stretch limo to announce he would sign a letter of intent with the Fighting Irish.
Considering the way he performed Saturday night, the Fighting Irish should have arranged a private Lear Jet to transport Clausen back to campus.
Clausen gave a boost to his Heisman Trophy hopes – not to mention his season statistical line – by picking apart one of the nation’s most generous defenses in a 40-14 rout of Washington State.
Clausen, playing less than three full quarters, completed 22 of 27 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“He’s the best quarterback we’ve faced this year,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said.
As time expired at the end of the first half, Clausen answered WSU’s first touchdown barely a minute later with a 50-yard “Hail Mary” pass that star receiver Golden Tate – surrounded by three Cougars – leaped high to snare in the right side of the end zone.
“Golden’s been doing that since he arrived on campus,” said Clausen, a junior like Tate. “That might have been the play of the year.”
The 25th-ranked Irish (6-2) headed to the locker room with a 30-7 lead, and the Cougars (1-7) were left to count the school-record $950,000 they received for enduring yet another lopsided defeat.
This one came before 53,407 eyewitnesses in the Alamodome and a national television audience.
Notre Dame finished with a 592-206 advantage in total yards, including 337-104 passing and 255-102 rushing. The Irish had a 32-12 edge in first downs, including 23-6 in the first half, when the difference in total yards was 416-104.
“The line of scrimmage on both sides was definitely won by Notre Dame,” Wulff said.
The Irish played without leading rusher Armando Allen and two key receivers due to injuries, and starting offensive guard Trevor Robinson was lost in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
Clausen exited early when he aggravated a turf toe injury (he said he could have kept playing), and backup QB Dayne Crist was knocked out of the game with a knee injury midway through the fourth quarter.
Obviously, it didn’t matter.
Jeff Tuel, WSU’s true freshman quarterback, faced constant pressure. He was sacked five times and completed 12 of 22 passes for 104 yards, two touchdowns to Jared Karstetter and two interceptions.
“Obviously, I have a lot to learn,” Tuel said.
Tate caught four balls for 80 yards and the long TD and had four carries for 61 yards and a score.
“He’s got a bright, bright future,” Wulff said.
Robert Hughes, utilized along with Tate in the Wildcat offense at times, ran for a season-high 131 yards and one TD on a career-high 24 carries.
The Cougars play their third straight road game next Saturday afternoon at 5-2 Arizona (12:30 p.m.).
WSU senior linebacker Jason Stripling, a Texas native, led everyone with a career-high 13 tackles. … Another Texan on the WSU team, junior safety Chima Nwachukwu, missed most of the game with a sprained ankle suffered when he was tackled after almost returning a blocked extra point for a score in the first quarter. … Wulff changed his mind and restored Dwight Tardy to the starting lineup after a one-game absence. Tardy, leading WSU in rushing for the fourth straight year, responded with a season-high 72 rushing yards on eight carries. ... Junior offensive tackle Micah Hannam, who has started every game for WSU since redshirting in 2006, held off a week-long challenge in practice from Steven Ayers and remained in the starting lineup. ... Middle linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis had a season-high 12 tackles. ... Toby Turpin, who blocked a field goal the previous week, blocked the extra point for WSU. ... The points, total yards and rushing yards were season highs for Notre Dame. The 30 points in one half were the most for the Irish since they scored 31 in the first half against North Carolina in 2006. ... Nick Tausch, a true freshman from Plano, Texas, set a Notre Dame record with his 14th consecutive field goal. Tausch, 2-for-2 Saturday, has been perfect since missing his first attempt in the season opener.