Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2022

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

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Page 26 of 47 DECEMBER 2022 27 SOUTHERN CAL DOMINATES BOTH LINES OF SCRIMMAGE Head coaches generally have as good of a pulse on the games they coach as anyone, as they should. And, alas, the two in the bout between Southern Cal and Notre Dame came to a common consensus. The Trojans beat the Fighting Irish because they dominated both sides of the running game. Southern Cal ran at will. Notre Dame couldn't run at all. If the Irish were to have any hope of securing a sixth straight win — and a second triumph over a team with College Football Play- off hopes at the time of kickoff in the last month — to close the regular sea- son, there needed to be a role reversal. The Trojans made sure there wasn't one. "You are talking about establishing the run game," Southern Cal head coach Lincoln Riley said. "That, to me, was the game." "We didn't stop the run," Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman added. "For them to rush for 200 yards, that is not a formula for success." Two-hundred and four yards, to be exact. And that's including sack yards lost. Without factoring those, USC ran 37 times for 220 yards for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. The Trojans scored 4 touchdowns on the ground. Excluding the anomaly that is facing Navy's triple- option offense, every single one of those rushing statistics posted by USC is a sea- son-worst for the Notre Dame defense. Put simply, senior running back Aus- tin Jones and sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams had their way with the Irish's vaunted defensive front. Those two combined for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns. "Notre Dame's history is a physi- cal, pound it type of team," Jones said. "Coach Riley was like, 'We're that team. We have to embrace it as well. We have to go out there and show the world who we actually are.' We're not a team that is about all the flash, glitz and glamor. We'll get in the trenches and actually work." That was true of the other side of the ball, too. The Irish's final line rushing stat line read 26 carries for 90 yards. It was their third-lowest output of the season and just the second time they averaged less than 4 yards per carry since Sept. 17. Sophomore starter Logan Diggs averaged 2.8 yards per carry on 12 attempts, the most of any Notre Dame player. It didn't help the cause of Diggs or any other Irish ball carrier that Notre Dame fell behind 10-0, which subse- quently forced a game of catch-up. That's how you end up with Irish junior quarterback Drew Pyne attempting 4 more passes than the Heisman Trophy front-running Williams. Freeman mentioned a formula for success; going into the game, that for- mula never included Pyne having to outduel Williams. Sure, he held his own in throwing for 318 yards and 3 touch- downs while completing 88.5 percent of his passes, the second-best single game mark in Notre Dame history. But by way of the ball necessarily being in his hands more so he could sling it around and try to get his team back in the game, he coughed up 2 costly turnovers that USC promptly turned into 14 points. Notre Dame had not played with a deficit since losing to Stanford Oct. 15. For more than a month, its recipe for vic- tories started with securing an early lead and finished with riding Diggs and fellow sophomore Audric Estime to the finish line. USC, oft-maligned for not having a top-tier defense, shut that duo down outside of a 24-yard carry for the latter. It was Jones, a transfer from Stan- ford who endured a stretch of six games with 65 yards rushing earlier this sea- son, who was worthy of every ounce of postgame praise for carrying 25 times for 154 yards. Not Diggs. Not Estime. "Phenomenal job tonight," Riley said. "Really physical line of scrimmage. We did a good job not letting them get out very often at all in the run game." So many times this fall, those words were true of Notre Dame. At the Los Angeles Coliseum, they were only true of Southern Cal. COMEBACK BID SLIPS OUT OF NOTRE DAME'S GRASP Notre Dame was, in head coach Mar- cus Freeman's words, "rolling" in its initial attempt to undo a first half of stuffed runs and additions to Southern Cal quarterback Caleb Williams' Heis- man ceremony highlight reel. The Fight- ing Irish trailed by 10 at the break. Crisp drives out of halftime, though, have a SOUTHERN CAL GAME NOTES BY TYLER HORKA AND PATRICK ENGEL Senior running back Austin Jones ran for 154 yards on 25 carries (6.2 yards per attempt) to help the Trojans to a 204-90 advantage in rushing yardage against the Fighting Irish. PHOTO BY MEG OLIPHANT

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