USC vs. Notre Dame Report Card: Grading the Trojan Offense


The USC offense racked up 590 yards of offense vs. Notre Dame with several big plays, but struggled to get anything going late in the game when it mattered.

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Here’s how each offensive unit graded out against the Fighting Irish:

C-. Cody Kessler gets the C- because while he was 30 of 46 for 365 yards and two touchdowns, all while avoiding countless sacks with fantastic pocket awareness, he didn’t perform when it mattered most. Kessler threw a pair of fourth quarter interceptions, including a poor decision by throwing into quadruple coverage on a desperation drive. After proclamations that he didn’t want to be forever labeled as an 8 or 9-win quarterback, the typically accurate Kessler can’t afford to keep making costly mistakes that don’t help his team’s chances of winning. And really, it goes to cement what we’ve always known about Kessler. He’s an exceptional game manager more than capable of running USC’s offense, and he’s not going to lose you games that way. He’s just not going to win them either, as the last two weeks have shown. Kessler has four interceptions in two games,  despite having five in all of last season.. Standout. Cody Kessler. QUARTERBACK

Standout. Ronald Jones II. RUNNING BACK. B+. USC’s running backs were a positive against the Irish, in both the running and passing game. The Trojan stable of Tre Madden, Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II combined for 148 yards but had just 22 carries as USC opted to stick to the passing game. While Madden and Davis amassed 70 receiving yards on a combined nine catches to mimic the running game through the air, you can’t help but wonder how successful the Trojans’ trio could have been if they were used more. Jones II especially, as he had the game’s longest run of 65 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. 

The passing game may have had its inconsistencies, but not without USC’s receivers making some outstanding plays. Converted quarterback Jalen Greene found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown on a double pass, on Adoree’ Jackson had an electrifying 83-yard catch and run. This was all while they played without Steven Mitchell and Isaac Whitney, along with Darreus Rogers, who reaggrivated his hamstring strain suffered three weeks ago at Arizona State. In total, 11 different receivers made the stat sheet, while Smith-Schuster once again topped the century mark, as he finished with six catches for 139 yards.. Standout. JuJu Smith-Schuster. RECEIVER. A

D. That Kessler was sacked just once might be a minor miracle. It’s also a testament to his ability to avoid defenders by side-stepping blitzes. He was under duress for much of the game, as USC’s offensive line again struggled in pass protection without center Max Tuerk. On top of that, penalties reared their head again. The Trojans had a slew of holding penalties, in addition to a costly hands to the face penalty on Zach Banner that set USC back just before halftime with a chance to take the lead.. Standout. Toa Lobendahn. OFFENSIVE LINE

C-. Make no mistake, interim head coach and offensive coordinator Clay Helton had a lot on his plate. But the Trojans still found yet another way to be remarkably inconsistent in terms of play calling. Helton dialed up witty plays like the Greene double pass and a play action pass to Taylor McNamara, both of which resulted in touchdowns. But giving Jones II just a pair of carries after his 65-yard run was confounding. Helton stressed during the week that USC would not be afraid to run the ball more, and yet they had a 30 to 46 run-pass ratio. When down just seven points late in game, Helton went all in on Kessler instead of riding the hot hands of Davis, Madden and Jones, none of whom carried more than 9 times. The result was a pair of game-clinching interceptions on forced throws and play calls.. Standout. Clay Helton. COACHING

What say you Trojan fans? Let us know how you feel about the offensive performance during USC vs. Notre Dame in the comments below and vote in the poll.

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