The defense doesn’t deserve that. The defense doesn’t deserve that. The defense doesn’t deserve that. Notre Dame gashed the USC defense on the last drive on a 7 play, 77 yard drive for the eventual game-winning touchdown, but the defense carried the Trojans tonight. If not for their ability to force turnovers, tonight’s contest would have been ugly. Despite the maligned secondary, USC held Notre Dame to 149 yards through the air and pressured Tommy Rees into 3 interceptions. On top of that, they forced a fumble and brought it back to the two yard line. Of USC’s 16 points, 16 came via the turnover. Much like last week, the staunch performance by the defense will likely go unnoticed, but they stepped up tonight and deserve a ton of praise. The most telling stat? USC’s scoring drives were 3 yards, 15 yards, 2 yards, and 18 yards. The only reason the Trojans even scored tonight was because the defense gave them the field position to do so.
Offensively, the Trojans failed to be productive for the second consecutive week. It was an absolute train wreck that included 7 punts. Early on the Trojans ran bubble screen after bubble screen and it was a bad plan. Two wide receivers lined up on two defensive backs, so all the cornerbacks had to do was have one avoid the block and leave the other open to make a tackle. USC gained a mere 261 yards of total offense and struggled on third down, going 4 for 17. I hate to say this, but we saw why Mitch Mustain isn’t the starter. Except for the final drive (when he threw an interception) the senior quarterback didn’t do much. 20-37 with 177 yards and a pick isn’t impressive. In addition, USC managed 80 rush yards on 30 attempts. They never were able to find big holes and exploit the Irish. With first and goal from the 2, the Trojans need four attempts to get into the end zone. After turning out prolific performances for the first 10 games, the offense has hit a brick wall. Matt Barkley will likely be back for UCLA, and the Trojan faithful can only hope he can lead USC to a victory.
Despite the struggles, USC still had a chance to win the game. A wide open Ronald Johnson dropped a ball that hit him in the chest for a guaranteed touchdown. These things happen. Ronald Johnson is only human. However, that doesn’t make it any less painful to watch. The catch would have given the Trojans a 3-point lead with about a minute left and a chance to win the game. Instead, the drive ended on a very ill-advised throw by Mustain in triple coverage.
On a positive note, John Baxter deserves a huge raise. After scoring their second touchdown, Notre Dame missed the extra point due to pressure
USC certainly could have folded after falling down 13-3. The Trojans looked sluggish early but fought back to take a 16-13 lead. However, this team needs to learn to win close games. All year, close games have been their nemesis. Except for Arizona State, USC has fallen at the end to Washington, Stanford, and now Notre Dame. When they need to make plays down the stretch, they usually don’t.Lane Kiffin will begin to feel the heat (though not from me). There are some things fans don’t tolerate, and losing to a hated rival is one of them. USC lost to Notre Dame for the first time since 2001, ending a streak of dominance. Sure, Kiffin didn’t drop the game winning pass, but when things go south, the attention turns to the coach.