Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2015 Issue

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

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THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS On USC's opening possession that resulted in a touchdown, a third-and-eight pass from fifth-year senior quarterback Cody Kessler to sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster gained 37 yards to the Notre Dame 6-yard line. That was the most notable third-down conversion in the first half by either team. In the second half, there were two for the Irish. First, Kizer's 23-yard scramble on third-and-five from his 15 with the Irish trailing 31-24 ignited a 90- yard touchdown march. Later, Kizer's 10-yard touch- down completion to a diving junior wideout Corey Robinson on third-and-eight put the Irish ahead 38- 31 with 9:06 left. Notre Dame finished 5 of 12 (41.7 percent) to USC's 6 of 16 (37.5 percent). ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame TURNOVERS With Notre Dame leading 21-10 and first-and-goal at the 10, Hunter Jr. fumbled into the end zone with USC recovering the ball for a touchback. That was a pivotal play — a potential 28-10 lead and a possible Irish runaway led to USC suddenly in command with a 31-24 lead entering the fourth quarter. Two crucial interceptions by the Irish in the final quarter, one by senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell and the other by junior safety Max Redfield, off a pass broken up by Russell, helped seal the Trojans' fate. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS It was a tale of two games — the first and fourth quarters belonging to Notre Dame with a 38-10 advantage, and the second and third going to USC. Notre Dame wasn't able to put the game away in the first half when it was on the threshold of it, and then USC's explosiveness nearly put the Irish away in the second and third quarters with a 21-3 count. Notre Dame was able to match the Trojans' big- play capability with a more consistent ground at- tack that asserted itself. The Irish defense bent but allowed only seven second-half points, similar to holding Navy to three in the final 30 minutes the week prior. A vital difference was the performance of Notre Dame's special teams, an Achilles heel in the past with a play-not-to-lose approach. The blocked punt for a touchdown especially was a game-changer. ✦ ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI After sitting out the first half in favor of fifth-year senior Matthias Farley, junior safety Max Redfield notched a critical interception in the fourth quarter. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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