USC vs. Notre Dame 2017: Studs and duds from the blowout

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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images /


The USC Defense

The USC Defense has been the strongest of the three phases of football to this point in 2017. Saturday night in Notre Dame Stadium, the defense finally had their off night. Unfortunately for the defense, there was no other unit to bail them out like they have done all season.

While it would be easy to trash defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast for the performance you have to look bigger picture. USC has been ravaged by injuries, especially along the defensive line.

When playing an offense like Notre Dame the defensive line is the most important unit. They have to be the ones to cause havoc in the backfield and blow up the mesh point on read options. It would have been amazing had Brandon Pili had the game of his life, but you can’t expect that from a true freshman playing his first game on the road.

No, the USC defense did not play well tonight at all, but with one nose tackle and down a starting corner they were in a bad spot.

The USC Offense

The 2017 USC offense has to be the most disappointing Trojan unit in a long time. Talent all over the place, but continually undone by self-inflicted errors and poor execution. Sam Darnold fumbled after the defense came out and played a perfect opening series. Then afterward the Trojans refused to try and establish the run.

Then, once it was clear that USC was not going to try and run the football at all, it was only a matter of time before Notre Dame went into the zone defense and waited for Darnold to throw them one. And he did, in the second quarter, and Notre Dame turned that into points.

USC also continued its dreadful night by bringing back all the old things that never worked on offense. The stretch outside zone play, which has not worked since the Western Michigan game. The third-and-short tailback dive into a stacked defensive front expecting it. The throwing of a fade that almost gets picked off. It was all there, this time at a much more critical juncture.

Moreover, how many games is USC going to have to lose before the staff starts game planning for Ronald Jones II to have success? They’re clearly trying to do what’s best for Darnold, but it’s about time they realize that’s not working.

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USC fans getting what they asked for

USC fans have been constantly complaining about various things surrounding this football team. Many of those complaints are generally unfounded and the result of people not wanting to be happy. Tonight, however, the USC fandom got a taste of all those backups they had been calling for to get playing time.

There had been complaints about Ajene Harris in the punt return game. Harris’ letting the ball bounce on punt returns had frustrated many. However, just when the victory lap over Jack Jones actually catching a punt and returning it was about to take place, he muffed a punt and set up another Notre Dame score.

Another USC player, who has drawn a lot of ire is starting defensive back, Iman Marshall.

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Marshall had been the constant target of criticism for his holding, which is a result of his physical play. What is overlooked about Marshall and his physical play is his role in the run game. Marshall is an outstanding corner when playing the run and forcing runners back inside. With Marshall sidelined early by a knee injury, it was clear how much the corners behind him struggled getting off of blocks and making tackles in space.