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What we learned about Notre Dame, Week 1

9/6/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

What did we learn from Notre Dame's 35-0 win over Nevada?

1. Clausen has matured: The entire offseason was filled with talk about how quarterback Jimmy Clausen had finally matured and grown into a leader. So much so that it seemed forced, as if Notre Dame wanted you to believe it. But Clausen exuded confidence and more leadership ability in the Nevada win. Forget the numbers, which were spectacular. He had terrific pocket presence, made almost all the right reads, stood in and delivered the ball while getting clobbered a couple of times and chatted up his teammates on the sideline. He looks poised to deliver on all of his potential.

2. The defense is going to be aggressive: The defense delivered the Irish's first shutout since 2002 and did so against a high-scoring, unorthodox offense. Of course, Notre Dame had all offseason to prepare for Nevada's pistol formations, so it should have been ready. What stuck out was how many times defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta brought pressure, and how many times linebackers like Brian Smith came running free to the quarterback. "As you can see, coach Tenuata is one of the best, if not the best, defensive coordinators," Smith said after his two-sack performance. "I think he's a genius."

3. Charlie Weis is comfortable in his role: There was almost a twinkle in his eye as the Notre Dame head coach reviewed the different plays he dialed up to counter Nevada's defensive looks. Weis admitted there were several times Saturday when he didn't see what his own defense was doing while he concentrated on the offense. But returning to the offensive coordinator role obviously suits him and is what he's best at, as the effectiveness of his game plan against the Wolf Pack showed.