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First Half Analysis: Notre Dame vs USC

Analysis of the first half between Note Dame and USC, which the Irish lead 17-3

Notre Dame leads USC 17-3 at halftime. Here are my thoughts on what we saw in the first half.

OFFENSE

*** From a game plan/play-calling standpoint I've been mostly pleased in the first half. In fact, outside of some 13 personnel near the goal line that resulted in a field goal despite a short field the play-calling/game plan was outstanding.

*** This is what I've wanted to see all season from the offense. Tempo, a lot of RPOs (at least 10 so far), spreading the field formationally, spreading the ball around and getting the playmakers the ball in space. They have reverse engineered the offense, using the pass to set up the run. If Tommy Rees can continue this while also making some adjustments at halftime the offense should continue playing well.

*** Quarterback Jack Coan has been very efficient in the first half. He's making quick decisions, getting the ball out quickly, making accurate throws in the quick game, he's made great decisions in the RPO game so far and he's showed poise in the pocket. He underthrew a deep shot to Lorenzo Styles that kept a big play from happening and he needs to get the end zone deep shot to Michael Mayer higher. Other than that he's been quite good in the first half.

*** I loved that Rees called two pass plays with Tyler Buchner in the game. 

*** The offensive line is getting almost no push in this game, but what I love is that they are staying engaged. It's the "keep a body on a body" that I've talked about all season. They are also giving the quarterbacks plenty of time to throw. 

*** With the line getting bodies on the USC defenders it has allowed Kyren Williams to find a lot of room to work. For example, on a 12-yard second quarter run by Williams, right tackle Josh Lugg got beat inside, but he stayed engaged, put the guy down late and it allowed Williams to spin out and then take off for a big gain. Williams has shown great patience and then when he commits he commits with authority.

*** Great first half from Lorenzo Styles, who has done a great job getting off the line and then using the quick game to get big plays. Kevin Austin missed two big play chances. He needs to do a much better job on the back shoulder throw he dropped in the first quarter and he took his eyes off the crossing route that kept ND from converting a third-down, which set up a field goal that was missed. Austin has blocked very well on the perimeter, however.

DEFENSE

*** This was a strange half for the defense, but ultimately they held USC to three points, although poor coaching decisions late in the half helped with that.

*** Notre Dame is dropping eight into coverage a lot in this game, and that's allowing Kedon Slovis to get into a decent rhythm at times. They also aren't really focused on slowing down Drake London, who has 9 catches for 109 yards so far. Houston Griffith and Clarence Lewis both had huge missed tackles that allowed London to get a lot of extra yards, but as the game wore on the defense did a better job bringing him down after he made the catch.

*** When Notre Dame has brought four the defensive line has been really, really impactful. The front is getting a lot of pressure in those instances, which led to multiple sacks and led to the interception by Bo Bauer that set up the field goal possession by the offense. Going four-down and sending Isaiah Foskey off the edge resulted in a first-down sack that completely stalled USC's second drive, and that put USC off schedule that ultimately led to the 3rd-and-8 that resulted in the Bauer interception.

*** I'm very curious to see if Marcus Freeman does more to either bring a four-man front or to use the linebackers and edge players to trigger more to add a fourth guy to the pass rush.

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*** Lewis did a poor job getting underneath London on the play where Kyle Hamilton got hurt. He was in a Cover 2 there, which means he stays under the wideout but he should keep climbing hard until he is threatened outside, but USC was running all verts to that side so he was never threatened. He needs to climb hard and get under that route, which would have kept Slovis from getting the ball there.

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