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Take 5: Jack Coan, Offensive Line, Beating USC

Five final thoughts on the Notre Dame victory over USC

Five final thoughts on the Notre Dame victory over USC.

1. It looked a lot like the Florida State game for Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan. Coan played an almost flawless game. He was 20-of-28 for 189 yards with one touchdown pass. The Irish racked up 389 yards of offense and it ran for 170 yards, which was its second-highest total of the season. The Irish seem to have found a comfort zone for him by playing hurry-up. Let’s not get too carried away. USC’s total defense is ranked 71st in the country and its scoring defense is 78th. Notre Dame did what it was supposed to do in its 31-16 victory. Teams will adjust to defend the faster offense. The key is for Coan to do it again next week.

2. Freshman Tyler Buchner was the second part of the Notre Dame quarterback equation. Buchner was 2 for 2 passing for 24 yards and he ran for 11 yards with a touchdown. This was the ideal for how Notre Dame wanted to use Buchner and Coan together to start the season. Buchner came in for two plays on his first possession. He finished with seven plays. It was always about using him in specific situations and not overburdening him. Because Notre Dame struggled in games against Toledo, Virginia Tech, and Cincinnati, Buchner got more playing time than perhaps he was ready for. It’s all good in the end because it counts for more experience, but Notre Dame will be in better shape the less Buchner plays.

3. The film will tell a more complete story but in real-time, the Notre Dame offensive line actually looked polished and confident. It was easily its best game of the season. There was one quarterback sack, and there was a good push for the running game, which finished with 170 yards rushing. Settling in with freshman Joe Alt starting at left tackle and Andrew Kristofic at guard, Notre Dame seems to have found a comfortable rotation going into the second half of the season. At the very least, this was a good confidence booster for the line.

4. It’s always good to get a win against USC, but this just isn’t a very good team. Aside from wide receiver Drake London, who finished with 15 catches for 171 yards that came with about a half-dozen broken tackles, and a few other players, like running back Keaontay Ingram and quarterback Kedon Slovis, the Trojans are one-dimensional. They are decent offensively but barely serviceable defensively. 

It’s better for college football when the Trojans are good. It’s still a top-five job with the right coach. I hope they make the right upgrade but don’t count on it. There has been a lot of incompetence from the administration since Pete Carroll left for Seattle. The Trojans might be the only program in the history of college football that has fired three coaches during the season. That would be Clay Helton, Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin. Kiffin was launched in 2011 by Pat Haden after the Trojans lost 62-41 to Arizona State. Sarkisian was fired after he came to a meeting “lit up”, according to an ESPN story, in 2015 before the Notre Dame game. And Helton was canned this year after the Trojans lost to Stanford in the second game of the season. For the record, Kiffin got a bad deal. USC was still dealing with NCAA sanctions from when Reggie Bush was found by the NCAA to have taken money from an agent. Kiffen would be a good hire now.

5. And finally, this has to be one of the top five injury quotes ever. On Kyle Hamilton’s lower-body injury, which was his right knee, Brian Kelly said: "Fat pad on the knee, no structural damage. Prognosis is really good.”

I have no idea what that means but Kelly delivered it with enough confidence that I’ll take his word for it. Hamilton will return sooner rather than later.

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