Notre Dame to start Sharpley at QB vs. USC

Updated: October 16, 2007, 9:12 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Evan Sharpley will start at quarterback for Notre Dame against No. 13 Southern California, making the junior the third starting signal-caller for the Fighting Irish this season.

Coach Charlie Weis said he decided to let Sharpley make his first career start for the Irish (1-6) because the junior has been steadily improving. Also, freshman Jimmy Clausen, who has been starting, is banged up. He's been sacked 23 times.

"I think Evan this week gives us the best chance of winning," Weis said Tuesday.

Asked whether the move was permanent, Weis said: "It's a permanent switch for the USC game."

Sharpley got the majority of work in practice for the first time Tuesday.

"It was a different experience," Sharpley said. "Once I'm in that situation I tried to make the best of it and played as hard as I could."

Sharpley has been the No. 2 quarterback for all seven games this season. Demetrius Jones started the season opener and transferred to Cincinnati after losing the job. Clausen, the first Notre Dame quarterback in at least 56 years to start his second game as a freshman, started the next six.

Sharpley has led the Fighting Irish to four of its seven offensive touchdowns, despite playing significantly less time than Clausen.

He said he was excited to receive the news Monday, but tried to maintain an even keel.

"We're focused on USC and focused on winning, so we need to get back on track," he said.

Sharpley, who has passed for three touchdowns and two interceptions in six games, has a 111.42 pass efficiency rating compared with Clausen's 89.51. Clausen has one touchdown pass and five interceptions.

Three of the four touchdown drives Sharpley has led have been 79 yards or longer. The other was 37 yards long. Clausen has led the Irish on TD drives of 9, 80 and 2 yards.

Weis had said Clausen had been the starter because he's been more accurate, completing 81-of-141 for a 57.4 completion rate, compared with Sharpley's 43-of-80 passing for a 53.8 completion rate. But Clausen had his worst outing last week, going 7-of-20 for 60 yards against Boston College with two interceptions.

Sharpley, who was backup to Brady Quinn last season, replaced Clausen early in the second half against Boston College and was 11-for-29 for 135 yards and a touchdown. Another TD pass was called back because of a holding penalty. Sharpley also rallied the Irish in the second half of a loss to Purdue.

Weis said Clausen took the news well. Watching from the sideline could help Clausen, he said.

"The game slows down for you when you're not in," Weis said. "The game happens really fast when you're in there."

Weis also announced that James Aldridge, leading the Irish with 249 yards rushing on 67 carries, is doubtful for the game with a high ankle sprain. That's bad news for an Irish squad that already is last in the nation in rushing at 32.1 yards a game.

Travis Thomas, who has rushed for 20 yards on 18 carries, Armando Allen, who has 126 yards on 35 carries and Robert Hughes, who has 39 yards on 12 carries, will all see increased playing time.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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