Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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24 OCT. 30, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT One could argue that junior line- backer Te'von Coney's sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on USC's first play from scrimmage from the Notre Dame 43 set the game's tone. However, the most de- moralizing play for USC occurred with 8:19 left in the first half. Although trailing 14-0, USC was far from out of the game, and had driven to the Irish 4-yard line the previous series before missing a short field goal attempt. The back- breaker then occurred when USC punt return man Jack Jones fum- bled a pooch punt by senior Tyler Newsome that senior rover Drue Tranquill recovered at the Trojans' 9-yard line. Junior quarterback Brandon Wim- bush scored three plays later to up the lead to 21-0, and the floodgates had opened. It continued to uplift the Irish and dishearten USC. STATS OF THE GAME Notre Dame won the turnover battle 3-0, with all three of the Tro- jans miscues occurring in the first half, and one of them on their first play from scrimmage. This resulted in setting up first-half touchdown drives of 51, nine and 59 yards for the Irish while building a 28-0 cush- ion by halftime. Through seven games, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents 94-10 off turnovers. Of the 17 turn- overs generated in 2017, the Irish have converted 13 takeaways into touchdowns and one into a field goal. Honorable mention goes to the Notre Dame defensive line record- ing four of the five sacks against USC and its mobile, dangerous quarterback Sam Darnold. Through the entire 12-game 2016 season, the defensive line totaled three quarter- back sacks. THE 2017 IRISH ARE FOR REAL While there might have been some skepticism through the first six games about just how good Notre Dame was, to dominate the way it has the past five weeks is not accidental nor fool's gold. The talent has always been there, but the combination of that with six new on-field staff members — most notably defensive coordinator Mike Elko and offensive coordinator/ play caller Chip Long — a dramati- cally revamped strength and condi- tioning program led by Matt Balis, and an unbridled hunger among the players to atone for a miserable 4-8 campaign is bearing fruit. Prior to the season, we said Notre Dame needed a 1964-like Ara Parseghian turnaround to honor the late coach. Elements of such a renaissance have been there, particularly via the basics and physicality. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: QB BRANDON WIMBUSH USC's defense was focused on stopping junior running back Josh Adams early, and the junior quarterback made them pay. Wimbush hit junior wideout Equanimeous St. Brown for a 26-yard touchdown to kick off the scoring and lobbed a fade throw to sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson for a 23-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing series. Wimbush hit fifth-year senior tight end Durham Smythe for a 20-yard gain in the second quarter to convert a third-and-four and ripped off a 24-yard run the next play to get Notre Dame into the red zone. He capped that drive off with a four-yard touchdown to make it 28-0, and the rout was on. Wimbush finished the game with 120 passing yards, 106 rushing yards and four combined touchdowns. DEFENSE: LB TE'VON CONEY Notre Dame had a number of players stand out in this game, but the junior linebacker had the biggest impact for a number of reasons. Co- ney led the Irish with 11 tackles, plus had a pair of hits for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry. There wasn't much that he didn't do in this game. Coney was in the starting lineup because normal starter Greer Mar- tini was forced to miss the game after suffering a knee injury during the week of practice. The Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native stepped into the starting lineup and shined, putting together the best statistical performance of his career. SPECIAL TEAMS: P TYLER NEWSOME The senior punter continued his strong season, averaging 41.7 yards on his six punts. In the second quarter, he pooched a sky-high punt that USC return man Jack Jones muffed, and the Irish recovered at the Trojans 9-yard line. Notre Dame scored three plays later to make it 21-0. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL Junior linebacker Te'von Coney was all over the field against the Trojans, making a team-high 11 stops with two tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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