What we learned about Notre Dame, Week 3

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
11:38
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


What we learned about Notre Dame in the Fighting Irish's 33-30 win over Michigan State ...

1. The defense is in code-red crisis mode: So much for all the good vibes from the opening-week shutout of Nevada. A week after being shredded by Michigan, Notre Dame gave up 459 total yards and 7.1 yards per play to a pedestrian Michigan State offense. The team's supposed strength -- its pass defense -- allowed 302 yards to Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins. He wasn't sacked all day despite defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's constant pressure, although he did throw the game-turning interception while trying to avoid a heavy rush. This is the same Michigan State team that managed just 316 yards last week at home against Central Michigan.

2. Notre Dame needs another playmaker at wideout: Star receiver Michael Floyd could possibly miss a month or two with a broken clavicle. When he got hurt last year, opponents double-teamed Golden Tate and slowed down the Irish offense. For some reason, the Spartans didn't go that route on Saturday, and Tate caught the game-winning touchdown. Future opponents will surely not make that same mistake. Charlie Weis will have to find someone to take pressure off Tate on the other side, whether that's the heretofore underachieving Duval Kamara, freshman Shaquelle Evans or someone else. At least Notre Dame has a reliable running game to lean on, as Armando Allen went over 100 yards for the second straight game.

3. Jimmy Clausen is more than just hype: Any doubts about Clausen's toughness and leadership should have been erased Saturday. Despite hurting his toe while being sacked early in the game, the quarterback limped his way through yet another standout performance. He completed his first 10 passes, threw for 300 yards and made many perfect throws that were dropped. There's no question who this team's most important and best player is.

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