Notre Dame's offense did what it needed to do to help the team to a 31-16 victory.
*** I liked a lot of what I saw from the Irish game plan, especially early in the game. Notre Dame pushed the tempo in the first half, spent a lot more time in 11 personnel (three receivers) and often released all five eligible receivers out in routes. Notre Dame spread the field from a formational standpoint and mixed up calls, which kept USC off balance.
*** We also saw a lot of RPO throws from the offense in the first half, and quarterback Jack Coan made very good decisions with that part of the game. Notre Dame also finally ran a jet sweep to Braden Lenzy, who went for 14 yards on the play, and they used Lenzy on some fakes that set up room.
*** In the early going the quick passing game and the tempo opened up running lanes for the backs and USC really didn't know what to do. Notre Dame scored on three of its four first half drives, with the only non score being the result of a missed field goal.
*** We didn't see as much of that in the second half, as Notre Dame looked to run more clock instead of putting USC away. We saw a lot more 12 personnel, more lining up under center, a lot more running on first down (after passing a lot on first down in the first half). I also didn't love it when the offense went 13 personnel after the Bo Bauer interception, which resulted in settling for a field goal on a drive that started inside the USC 10-yard line. The offense has been excellent all season when it comes to turning defensive turnovers into touchdowns, but the offense just wasn't good in the 13 personnel on all but about one snap in this win.
*** Notre Dame punted on its first drive and used a long run to set up a score on the second drive. The third ended with an interception on a poorly played ball. Notre Dame just wasn't as crisp and didn't play with as much urgency in the second half, which made this game much closer than it should have been.
*** This has been a problem for Notre Dame in these types of games for a long time, and it's very similar to what we saw against USC in 2019. Notre Dame built a 20-3 lead in the second half, went away from what worked in the first half, allowed USC to claw back into the game in the second half. Top teams are supposed to get that kind of lead and look to put a team away, but Notre Dame constantly decides to play conservatively, allows a team to climb back into the game and then hopefully they can turn the heat back up, which is not easy to do.
*** Coan had a strong first half, making quick decisions and showing poise in the pocket. He underthrew two deep balls - one to Michael Mayer and another to Lorenzo Styles - but outside of that he was sharp in the first half.
*** Running back Kyren Williams was brilliant in the win. A week after I said he might have played his best game, Williams followed up with an even better performance. He had his first 100-yard game of the season, but outside of his 38-yard gain he made a lot of those runs on his own. Williams was incredibly patient, set blocks up extremely well and his stiff arm was on point in space. Williams was also very active and effective in the pass game. Williams wasn't just effective and disciplined, he also played with a lot of fire and physicality, setting the tone for his teammates. After USC made it 24-16 the junior back made play after play on the next series to set up the back-breaking score.
*** Williams finished with 138 rushing yards and also led the offense with 6 catches.
*** Freshman wideout Lorenzo Styles had his most productive career performance, and his numbers should have been better. Styles got open on an early deep route, executing a good release and then getting on top of the receiver but the ball was under thrown.
*** Receiver Kevin Austin was way too up-and-down in the game, and his downs proved costly. He did a poor job playing a backshoulder throw in the first half, which allowed USC to break it up. He also dropped a third-down throw that would have put the Irish in a first-and-goal situation. Later in the game Austin got jammed up on another backshoulder throw from Coan that caused the ball to be too far in front and the ball got picked off.
*** What I liked about Austin's game is that he blocked very well in the instances I was able to key in on him in the run game and screen game.
*** Wideout Avery Davis had some clutch plays in the pass game but did have two bad misses as a blocker. He was beat inside in a 13-personnel run and he got beat on the outside in a screen situation that resulted in a tackle for loss for USC.
*** Tight end Michael Mayer wasn't used much in the second half but he was quite good in the first half. He did a good job working open on the quick option routes. Mayer was sharp getting out of cuts and did a great job by quickly getting his eyes around to the quarterback. He also did a great job sealing off the safety on a seam route reception from Tyler Buchner. I'll need to go back and watch the film for a better view, but when I was able to key on him in the run game I was pleased with his effort and execution.
*** I'll need to watch the film to get a better vie won individual players, but the offensive line battled in the game. They didn't get great movement for much of the game but they did what we've been begging for them to do all season. Play hard, get a body on a body and stay engaged. By doing that in this game they allowed Williams to use his vision and playmaking ability to fuel the offense.
*** Outside of one play in the second half the pass protection was quite good. Coan had plenty of time to throw for much of the game outside of a three-man pressure that ended an early third quarter drive.
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