April 18, 2009
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - For Charlie Weis, it was a hopeful day.
Notre Dame 's offense scored three touchdowns in 13 possessions, the defense scored a touchdown - returning an interception thrown by Jimmy Clausen for a score - and the Fighting Irish finished spring practice with their intrasquad game Saturday.
Coach Weis and the Irish are hoping a good spring leads to a fabulous fall.
"I think we improved in a lot of areas. We have a long way to go to be a really good football team. But at least potentially, potentially, you could see that elements are in place to be a really good football team," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do."
The offense beat the defense 68-33 under an improvised scoring system. Robert Blanton intercepted Clausen's pass and returned it 48 yards for a score. The defense also managed to hold Notre Dame's two best receivers, Michael Floyd and Golden Tate, to one catch each, and neither Clausen nor backup quarterback Dayne Crist managed any big plays.
Clausen was 8-of-17 passing for 70 yards, while Crist, who redshirted last season, was 4-of-10 for 40 with no interceptions.
Nate Montana, son of former Irish great Joe Montana, had the game's longest pass, a 34-yard throw to tight end Mike Ragone that helped to set up a touchdown.
"It was nice for Nate to get those couple of passes and of completions. I think it was good for him to get those under his belt," Weis said. "There's a lot of pressure being a legacy."
Montana's father was at the game, as was his brother, Nick, a highly recruited junior who attends the same California high school, Oaks Christian, as Clausen did.
One of the main goals for Notre Dame during the spring was to improve its running game. Weis said last year's Bowl Championship Series teams averaged 4.6 yards per run, while the Irish averaged 3.3, and 109.7 yards a game.
Weis said he was pleased with the Irish running game Saturday, especially inside. The Irish rushed for 247 yards on 59 carries, an average of 4.2 yards a run.
"Let's face it, if you can run the ball, everything else is easier," Weis said.
Armando Allen, who rushed for 70 yards on 12 carries, was the offensive MVP. Robert Hughes ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, and Jonas Gray ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
One of the biggest cheers went up when Brandon Walker, who was 1-of-7 on field goals through the first five games last season, kicked a 48-yard field goal.
The Irish managed to have some fun in the game, with Weis calling a reverse on the 8-yard line and later a flea flicker. The Irish players also had some staged touchdown celebrations, including playing duck, duck goose in the end zone following Blanton's interception return.
"I hope they got it on video so they could see how stupid they really looked," Weis joked.
Blanton, the game's defensive MVP, wasn't worried.
"You only live once," he said. "You've got to have some fun."