Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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Page 26 of 55 OCT. 30, 2017 27 and four touchdowns. Getting off to a good start with the deep ball opened up Notre Dame's ground attack. "Throwing the ball down the field kind of backed USC off a little bit," Wimbush said. "They took a couple of guys out of the box. "We still have to be way more ef- fective when it comes to the passing game, and I think that will come in these next couple of weeks." KEVIN STEPHERSON RE-EMERGES Notre Dame never officially said why, but it was obvious that talented sophomore wide receiver Kevin Step- herson wasn't going to play in the team's first four games of the season. When asked about it, head coach Brian Kelly pointed to Stepherson needing to portray the "traits" that are required to earn playing time for Notre Dame. After playing just 23 combined snaps in wins over Miami (Ohio) and North Carolina, Stepherson became a much bigger part of the offense in the win over USC. The sophomore ran a reverse for 13 yards on Notre Dame's second possession, and he hauled in an impressive 23-yard touchdown pass on the team's third possession. Stepherson had just one catch for minus-three yards coming into the game, but in his first extensive ac- tion of the season the speedy sopho- more led the offense with 58 receiv- ing yards and tied for the team-lead with three receptions. "I'm proud of guys like Kevin Stepherson, who has been in Siberia mostly this season and comes out and really impacts the game," Kelly said. Stepherson used the bye week to establish confidence with the starting quarterback. "I liked his two weeks of prepara- tion," junior signal-caller Brandon Wimbush said of Stepherson. "… He was focused for the entire two weeks and you saw that in him to- day. Even earlier from this morning in our walk-through, you could see how focused he was. "I told him before the game, 'I'm coming to you a couple times today,' And he went up and got the ball for me." ANOTHER DAY AT THE OFFICE The Irish added 377 rushing yards against USC, marking the fifth time in seven games Notre Dame has surpassed the 300-yard mark on the ground. At this point it's almost ex- pected that Notre Dame will put up monster yards with junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and junior running back Josh Adams leading the charge. According to Adams, who now stands at 967 rushing yards through seven games, the rushing success isn't about him, Wimbush or any other skill player. It's about what the five linemen open in front of them. "They were working like always. Pushing the line of scrimmage for- ward and demanding more out of ev- erybody else," Adams said. "A lot of their energy rubbed off on the team. They do a great job of leading. "A lot of our success has been because of those guys, and I'm just grateful that I have the opportunity to run behind them." Most impressively, the Irish of- fense had just two negative plays in the game against a USC defense that came in averaging 6.3 negative plays per game. "I think just execution, just being on your guy as best you can and know- ing where you're supposed to be and our running backs running hard," fifth-year senior left tackle Mike Mc- Glinchey explained. "It's really just a combination of all different things. NOTRE DAME VS. USC QUARTER-BY-QUARTER COMPARISON Notre Dame 1st Qtr. 2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr. 1st Half 2nd Half Total Time of Possession 7:42 9:12 4:13 7:17 16:54 11:30 28:24 Third-Down Conversions 0-2 5-7 1-1 1-3 5-9 2-4 7-13 Fourth-Down Conversions 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 Average Field Position ND-27 ND-49 ND-25 ND-27 ND-38 ND-26 ND-33 USC 1st Qtr. 2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr. 1st Half 2nd Half Final Time of Possession 7:18 5:48 10:47 7:43 13:06 18:30 31:36 Third-Down Conversions 1-3 1-3 1-3 1-4 2-6 2-7 4-13 Fourth-Down Conversions 0-0 0-0 1-1 0-1 0-0 1-2 1-2 Average Field Position USC-32 USC-21 USC-25 USC-34 USC-27 USC-29 USC-28 PLAY CHART (NO. OF PLAYS) Yards ND USC (-) 8 9 0-5 32 33 6-9 9 13 10-19 12 9 20-29 7 2 30-39 0 1 40-49 0 0 50 or more 1 0 RED ZONE EFFICIENCY (INSIDE 20-YARD LINE) No Poss. TD FG Score Notre Dame 4 4 0 0 USC 3 2 0 1 Sophomore wide receiver Ke vin Stepherson hauled in three receptions for a team-best 58 yards, including a nifty 23-yard touchdown grab, and also rushed two times for 24 yards. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA BIG PLAYS (25 YARDS OR MORE) Notre Dame • 1-10 USC26 Wimbush pass complete to St. Brown for 26 yards and a touchdown • 1-10 ND16 Adams rush for 84 yards and a touchdown USC • 2-12 ND46 Darnold pass complete to Burne for 34 yards to the ND12 • 2-10 ND33 Darnold pass complete to Vaughns for 28 yards to the ND5

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