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.
Sharpley, the backup to Brady Quinn last season and the No. 2 quarterback when Demetrius Jones and Jimmy Clausen started the first seven games this season, will make his first career start Saturday at home.
"I think Evan this week gives us the best chance of winning," coach Charlie Weis said during his weekly news conference Tuesday.
Sharpley has led the Fighting Irish (1-6) to four of its seven offensive touchdowns, despite playing significantly less time than Clausen, a freshman who had started the past six games. Weis said part of the reason for the change is Clausen's health.
"The separation between the two isn't enough for the banged up guy to start ahead of the fresh guy," Weis said.
Jones started the season-opener, a 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech, and left the team a week after Clausen became the starter for the second game against Penn State.
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 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.
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 the Irish on 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 also announced that James Aldridge, who is leading the Irish with 249 yards rushing on 67 carries, is doubtful for the game with a high ankle sprain.