SOUTH BEND, Ind. Jimmy Clausen will start at quarterback for Notre Dame against Air Force on Saturday, after coach Charlie Weis said the freshman threw the ball with zip and accuracy in practice this week.
"He looked better at just about everything than he looked a few weeks back," Weis said Thursday. "I don't know the cause of that. I'd like to sit there and say I have all the answers to that, but I do know he looked very fresh, he looked very sharp and we were very encouraged."
The Irish (1-8) will be trying to end a school-record five-game home losing streak when they play the Falcons (7-3).
Clausen, the first Notre Dame quarterback in at least 56 years to start his second game as a freshman, lost the starting job after struggling against Boston College on Oct. 13. Weis said at the time that part of the reason was Clausen, who had been sacked 23 times, was banged up.
Weis also thought Clausen, rated by many as the top high school player last year, was having trouble adjusting to the speed of the college game. Weis hopes watching two games from the sideline will help.
"It's a little different when you're underneath center and you're looking to make sure your guys are there, then you're sending a guy in motion," Weis said. "Sometimes when you're relatively inexperienced, you're more worried about running the play than watching everything that's happening pre-snap that gives you those tips to make a play successful."
Clausen, who is 1-5 as a starter, was not available for comment Thursday. But he said two weeks ago that he thought watching Notre Dame's 38-0 loss to USC from the sideline helped him.
"It slowed down a lot for me when I was on the sideline," he said. "You can see coverages slow down. You can see what defensive tendencies are. I think that's the biggest thing."
Weis said that Clausen, who was slowed in the preseason after undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery to remove a bone spur on his throwing arm, is as healthy as he has been in at least a month.
"You could see that he had some pep in step, so to speak," Weis said.
Clausen is 81-of-141 passing, a 57.4 completion rate, for 618 yards with five interceptions and one touchdown. By contrast, Evan Sharpley, who started the past two games and has played in eight, is 77-of-140 passing, a 55 percent completion rate, for 736 yards with three picks and five touchdowns.
The hope is Clausen will start the final three games.
"That's the intent," Weis said. "We're trying to get some continuity here down the stretch."