Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 32 of 55 OCT. 12, 2019 33 BY ANDREW MENTOCK I t may sound like hyperbole, but USC head coach Clay Helton's job may be riding on his team pulling off an upset in South Bend. Otherwise, with two losses already, the Trojans would fall to 3-3. Even if they win out after that, Ryan Young of isn't sure that will be enough to save his job. Former USC athletics director Lynn Swann resigned at the begin- ning of September, in part, because of the national college admission scandal, where several USC parents were found to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their child evaluated as an athlete and therefore be admitted with lower GPA and test scores. It also didn't help Swann's tenure that Helton and the USC football program went 5-7 last year and that many boosters and the like have been calling for his job. Now Helton must work to put to- gether a 2019 résumé that will sway the new athletics director, who hasn't been hired yet, to keep him around, and that starts with a win over the Irish. "That would be some really com- pelling evidence for the new athlet- ics director, whoever that ends up being, to look at it and say, 'Maybe we have to stick with the status quo for a little bit longer,'" Young said. "If they lose this game and they're 3-3, even if they win the rest of the other games, I just don't know that a 9-3 or an 8-4 season is going to be that overwhelming of an impression on the new AD." This USC team is certainly capable of beating Notre Dame, but the Irish will be favored to come away with the win. OFFENSE Some of the team's poor play up to this point isn't Helton's fault. He did the right thing and retooled his team after finding success with a pass- happy offense in a close loss to Notre Dame (24-17) at the end of last season. Initially, he brought in former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury to be the USC offensive coordinator and introduce the "Air Raid" passing of- fense. But soon after, Kingsbury left for the NFL to take over as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Hel- ton then brought in Graham Harrell from North Texas to install the same type of aerial attack. All spring and fall camp, the re- ports said that quarterback JT Daniels and an improved offensive line were thriving. For as tumultuous as the off- season was, there was a chance that Helton could pull off the improbable and have a successful season. But then Daniels tore his ACL in the Trojans opening game against Fresno State. Since then, USC has utilized backup quarterbacks Kedon Slovis and Matt Fink. Both have performed well at times, but also had moments where they struggled significantly. "There's an alternate reality where if JT Daniel stays healthy, this team is at least 4-1 and possibly 5-0," Young said. "We'll never know how that would've played out." Slovis is the preferred starter of the two backups, and he will likely get the nod against the Irish Oct. 12. He missed the majority of USC's games against Utah and Washington due to a concussion, but is expected to be back. He has completed 60 of 77 throws (77.9 percent) for 732 yards with five touch- downs and four interceptions. Fink, on the other hand, has connected on 64.5 percent (40 of 62) of his passes for 514 yards with four scores and four picks. Where Slovis and Fink have done well is getting the ball out quickly to USC's tremendously talented pass catchers. In USC's win over then-No. 10 Utah, senior wide receiver Michael Pittman (6-4, 220) caught 10 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. Usu- ally on the field with him is redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns and sophomore Amon-Ra St. Brown. Collectively, this trio has accounted for 90 of the team's 125 receptions (72.0 percent), 1,153 of the 1,461 re- ceiving yards (78.9 percent) and nine of the team's 10 scoring catches (90.0 percent) through the first five games. After those three, junior tight end Erik Krommenhoek is the team's next leading receiver with 75 yards on four receptions. Thus far, the Trojans have strug- gled to find a consistent running GAME PREVIEW: USC Sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga leads the Trojans with 26 solo tackles and is second on the team with 42 total tackles despite missing the Washington game with a concussion that could also sideline him against the Irish. PHOTO BY JOHN MCGILLEN/COURTESY USC Facts & Figures USC AT NOTRE DAME Game Info Date: Oct. 12, 2019 Site: Notre Dame Stadium (77,622) Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET Television: NBC Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129) and on Notre Dame's IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This will be the 91st meeting between USC and Notre Dame. The Irish have a record of 48-37-5 in the series and currently have a two-game win streak. Head Coaches: USC — Clay Helton (35-19, fifth full season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (85-36, 10th season). Noting USC: Despite some struggles over the past decade, USC 's all-time record is 842-348-54 … The program's 842 wins is ninth all time … The Trojans have won 37 confer- ence championships in their 131-year history … USC's largest margin of victory over Notre Dame was 38-0 in 2007 … The Trojans are tied with Notre Dame in claimed national champi- onships with 11, which is second all time … The matchup between the two storied programs began in Los Angeles in 1926 and Notre Dame won the inaugural game 13-12 … USC's most recent national championship in 2004 was stripped away by the NCAA due to running back Reggie Bush receiving improper benefits … The Associated Press still recognizes the Trojans as the 2004 national champions … Ac- cording to Winsipedia, the Trojans are No. 1 overall in first-round NFL Draft picks with 81 and total draft picks with 501. Red-Hot Seat Trojans head coach Clay Helton, who is fighting to keep his job, must overcome some significant injuries

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