SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Jimmy Clausen is no Brady Quinn. Then again, neither was Quinn as a freshman.
Like Quinn in 2003, Clausen is finding it difficult to carry the Fighting Irish (0-4) to victory this season, despite flashes of what made him one of the top incoming freshmen.
Clausen, like Quinn as a freshman, is playing behind an inexperienced line and taking his lumps. He has been hurried, harried and hassled, being sacked 18 times. He's on pace to be sacked more than 50 times.
And just like Quinn, Clausen is handling an offense that has struggled to establish a running game. The biggest difference between the two is the 2003 team depended on Quinn to try to win, while coach Charlie Weis is trying to depend more on the run than on Clausen.
Clausen has led the Irish to one TD drive longer than 10 yards and just two overall. The only other scoring drive came on a 22-yard field goal against Penn State - and that capped a 2-yard drive following a 47-yard punt return by Tom Zbikowski.
In his first three starts, Quinn was 49-of-119 passing for 498 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Clausen is 35-of-62 passing for 271 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
And he has earned the respect of his teammates.
``He takes a lot of hits, and he gets back up. A bad play might happen, but he comes back and doesn't seem to be rattled by it,'' tight end John Carlson said. ``I feel like he's shown a lot of maturity and toughness.''
What has impressed Weis most is that Clausen doesn't appear to get flustered.
``He doesn't show those faraway eyes,'' Weis said.
He said he's generally satisfied with Clausen's progress, especially his ability to read coverages and pass. The biggest challenge is to learn how to run the offense rather than just relay the play sent in from the sideline.
Clausen will be given more and more chances to read opposing defenses and change plays as he develops.
``I'd like to do a whole lot more of it,'' Weis said. ``But you have to do what they can handle.''
Although Weis has been pleased with Clausen's play, there have been coaching moments. After Clausen was replaced by Evan Sharpley in the fourth quarter against Michigan State, Weis had an animated talk with his young quarterback.
``It's easy to be a quarterback when things are going well,'' Weis said. ``You're the one that everyone wants to pat on the back and give you all the credit. But when things are not going well, it's a lot tougher test.
``He's far from being the problem here. We have a whole litany of things that are involved in being the problem. But he'll continue to develop the way he's been developing, he'll continue to get better, and positive things are ahead for him.''
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