Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2022

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

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Page 22 of 47 DECEMBER 2022 23 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: A Who had Notre Dame junior quarterback Drew Pyne throwing for more yards than Heisman Tro- phy favorite Caleb Williams of Southern Cal? Pyne: 318. Williams: 232. Pyne also had fewer incom- plete passes. Pyne: 3. Williams: 4. It's not like Pyne outplayed Williams by any means, though. Williams accounted for more total touchdowns, 4 to 3, and did not turn the ball over. Pyne did twice. But Notre Dame would take 318 yards passing with 3 aerial scores from Pyne every single Saturday. Pyne's lone interception was costly. It led to a Williams score that put Southern Cal ahead 38-21 with 2:35 left. Pyne also missed a wide-open read early in the game and put the ball on the ground for a lost fumble on what was supposed to be an RPO (run-pass option) toss into the flat. Southern Cal scored a touchdown after that giveaway, too. But to pin the loss on Pyne would be irrespon- sible. He completed passes to 7 different targets. He got junior tight end Michael Mayer loose for 8 catches, 98 yards and 2 touchdowns. He played an overall incredibly impressive game. NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE: F Trailing 10-0 in the first quarter did not allow Notre Dame many opportunities to stick to the run, but 24 carries for 106 yards excluding sacks was not the stat line the Irish were looking for in the ground game. Sophomore running back Audric Estime ran 6 times for 43 yards. Twenty-four of which came on one carry. Sophomore Logan Diggs had 12 rushes for 34 yards. A yards per carry average of 2.8 isn't going to get the job done. Junior Chris Tyree had 2 at- tempts; one for 6 yards and another for 18. Perhaps it would have been wise to get him more involved. Sophomore tight end Mitchell Evans' streak of six-straight short-yardage conversions on third and fourth downs came to an end with a denied attempt on fourth-and-1. Notre Dame failed to make noise in the rushing department, and the Irish severely suffered for it. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: C- It wasn't a complete failure considering Williams only passed for 232 yards, his third-lowest total of the season, but it was still all too easy for the Heisman hopeful. He completed 18 of 22 attempts. Factored into this grade is also Notre Dame's in- ability to bring Williams down with the pass rush. Time and again he escaped the backfield to either make a play with his arm or continue a dazzling display with his feet. The Irish knew that was go- ing to be a major factor in the game, and they still didn't do enough to stop it. Williams also completed the ball to 9 differ- ent receiving targets. He simply had his way in the passing department even if the final numbers don't totally reflect dominance. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: F This was perhaps the most surprising aspect of the night. It was Trojans running back Austin Jones — not Diggs or Estime or Tyree — who domi- nated running the rock. Jones carried 25 times for 154 yards. His first tote of the night was a 7-yard gain. He picked up at least 7 yards on nine other instances. He gashed the Notre Dame defensive front repeatedly. Jones' effective running took some pressure off Williams, who was a factor in the running game himself. He scored on the ground three times. Freshman Raleek Brown got into the end zone on a carry as well. He walked in untouched on an op- tion look from 7 yards out. Williams ran in stride for stride with him after handing off. It was one example of the Irish flat-out failing to stop the run. NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS: B Notre Dame only punted once and did not at- tempt any field goals. Tyree only averaged 15 yards on 3 kick returns. Sophomore Lorenzo Styles re- turned one for 37 yards in garbage time. There weren't many game-changing special teams op- portunities. Southern Cal punted twice — and it was Williams who booted the ball both times. The Trojans used him as a pooch punter, likely to avoid any chance of Notre Dame blocking a punt. NOTRE DAME COACHING: C Something seemed off for the Irish from the start. Notre Dame was flagged for an illegal substi- tution on Southern Cal's first extra point. Then the Irish were tagged for an illegal block in the back on the ensuing kick return. Head coach Marcus Freeman's team eventually settled in and played a more disciplined brand of football, but in the end, it felt like Southern Cal was always the team in control while Notre Dame was scrambling. There aren't many games that end in a loss in which the coaching grade will be anything better than a C. It's not that Freeman did a whole lot wrong. He just didn't coach the Irish to a win. And that's all there is to it. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA Sophomore running back Logan Diggs couldn't get going on the ground against the Trojans' much- maligned defense, rushing for only 34 yards on 12 carries. PHOTO BY MEG OLIPHANT

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