Notre Dame closed their 2022 regular season with a 38-27 loss at No. 6 USC and will finish the year with fewer than 10 wins for the first time since 2016 (postseason included). So what went wrong for Notre Dame in a game that we largely thought they matched up very well with USC going into?
A slow start against the wrong kind of team to have one against, being run over instead of doing the stomping and the ultra important turnover battle for this one were just a few of the reasons for the loss. Here is our look inside the box score at the numbers that tell the story in Saturday night’s regular season finale.
Notre Dame was supposed to be the ones that controlled the line of scrimmage in this one. As a result, the Irish were to dominate the run game while making it real hard on USC to establish the run themselves. The problem with that?
Well, USC was the one doing what they wanted running the ball as they outpaced the Irish 204-90 in the rushing department Saturday night. Caleb Williams gets deserved love for his performance but Austin Jones going for over 150 out of USC’s backfield told you everything you needed to know about this one.
The goal of the night was to have this be the end game time of possession for Notre Dame – obviously with the Irish being the ones holding the ball for over 35 minutes. Instead, as you could probably guess from the rushing success that is stated above, USC was the ones to possess the ball for the vast majority and make Notre Dame try to play catch-up all night long.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t end well for Notre Dame.
We knew going in that turnovers would be especially key as USC was gaining nearly two full extra possessions a game in the turnover department. We didn’t expect Notre Dame to one-up the Trojans in this department but simply breaking even would feel like a win.
Well, trailing 17-7 and moving the ball well out of halftime it looked like a game was about to break out. Then a Drew Pyne misplay resulted in a lost fumble in which USC turned into a touchdown in short order. That was pretty much the ballgame as it went from potentially being 17-14 to instead being a 24-7 USC advantage.
Pyne played extremely well all things considered but did have another interception late while USC again managed to not turn the ball over at all.
8 of 10
While this was still a contest of sorts, Notre Dame couldn’t get off the field on third down. That’s what happens when it was regularly third-and-short for USC, but even third and longs were converted too easily. USC converted 8 of their first 10 third downs as Notre Dame’s inability to get off the field was the reciepie for disaster.
USC ended the game 8 of 12 on third down but for all intents and purposes, 8 and 10 was their number when the game was still in the balance.
2 punts - 0 by actual punter
How do you counter Notre Dame’s flat-out scary punt block team? Simply don’t let them on the field.
Notre Dame is the biggest to blame for this as they didn’t get stops as discussed above. However, when USC was forced to punt the two times in the game, they let Caleb Williams drop back and punt the ball himself. Credit to Lincoln Riley and USC’s staff for not letting Notre Dame’s dangerous special teams unit on the field all night.
Data Unavailable But Still Noteworthy
Hey look, another missed tackle. I know Caleb Williams is outstanding and on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, but Notre Dame did themselves no favors in slowing him down. I don’t know how many missed tackles Irish defenders had on Williams specifically Saturday night and we knew it going in but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a difference in the game.
Williams and USC performed while Notre Dame’s defense failed to on too many levels – none bigger than their inability to bring him down with any consistency all night.
23 of 26
The turnovers were killers by Drew Pyne but the young man deserves a little praise. Notre Dame isn’t built to comeback against high-powered offenses like USC’s and on a night the running game was slow to get going, Pyne kept Notre Dame in the contest. No, the Irish were never in control but they weren’t out of it until late, either. Pyne’s 23-26 night that started with 15-straight completions is worthy of praise regardless of what his future is in terms of starting at quarterback.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
It had been 2,190 days since USC beat Notre Dame. You had to go all the way back to the end of the forgetful 2016 season for the Irish to find that day. Well, after six years the streak is over. Time to start putting in the work to make sure it doesn’t carry on past mid-October of 2023.
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