Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2015 Issue

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

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2-17 USC's record when it plays at Notre Dame Stadium with at least two losses already on its ledger. The only two times it emerged victorious was 28-14 in 1971 and 20-17 in 1997. 3 Consecutive games the opposition scored on its opening possession against Notre Dame for a quick 7-0 lead. USC did it on an eight-play, 71-yard drive — although Notre Dame would tie the game 15 seconds later. 4 Different coaches in charge at USC the past four years for the Notre Dame game: Lane Kif- fin (2012), interim Ed Orgeron (2013), Steve Sarkisian (2014) and interim CLAY HELTON (2015). Sarkisian had the lone win and could have been the first USC BY THE NUMBERS BY LOU SOMOGYI What Worked • Striking A Balance. The Irish were aggressive early, hitting a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, using a number of formations to strike an early run-pass balance and racking up 162 yards and 14 points on just six plays to open the game. Notre Dame's next two possessions got inside the USC 5-yard line, but a fumble by junior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and a holding penalty resulted in Notre Dame getting just three points from those two pos- sessions. Over the next four possessions, Notre Dame punted each time. The Irish went away from the balanced approach — eight rushes to 15 pass attempts — and the offense stalled. When USC went ahead 31-24 the Irish were able to find their way. During the final 25 min- utes of the game, the Irish ran the ball 13 times and threw 12 passes to take control of the game and put the Trojans away. • Handling Adversity. During a stretch of just more than 10 minutes, USC scored 21 unan- swered points to take a 31-24 third-quarter lead. Notre Dame followed up with a three-and-out, and the defense was back on the field. USC put together an 11-play drive, but the Irish defense buckled down and forced a punt. Notre Dame responded with scoring drives of 90 and 91 yards and finished the game by scoring 17 unanswered points. What Didn't Work • Missed Opportunities. Notre Dame had op- portunities to put USC away early. Leading 21-10 in the second quarter, Notre Dame was on the march before Hunter Jr. fumbled away a chance to bury USC. On the next possession, freshman running back Josh Adams ripped off a 26-yard gain to give the Irish the ball at the USC 3-yard line. A two-yard loss, a holding penalty and two incompletions forced a field goal. The Trojans scored 14 straight points on just three offensive plays to tie the game heading into the half. • Missed Tackles. The Irish defense struggled to consistently make tackles, and it started early. On USC 's first possession, senior safety Elijah Shumate and fifth-year senior linebacker Joe Schmidt both had a chance to sack USC quarter- back Cody Kessler for what would have been at least a 10-yard loss, bringing up third-down and very long. Instead, Kessler shook them off and was able to throw the ball away, setting up a more manageable third-down opportunity, which he converted. Notre Dame had at least 13 missed tackles in the game and several led to big plays for the USC offense. The extra opportunities helped the Trojans rack up 31 points and 590 yards of total offense. — Bryan Driskell TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

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