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A Look Inside The Numbers - Defense Dominates, Offense Capitalizes

Written by Cade Harper|Writer|Twitter/X: @CadeHarperIT

Photo by College Football News


Notre Dame vs USC. One of college football's most historic and hatred filled rivalries. Surely you would think it's an instant classic when these two programs full of hall of famers, draft picks, Heisman winners, and pure talent face off against each other. Not this time. The Irish routed USC 48-20 in dominant fashion. Performances to take note of were guys like Xavier Watts, Jaylen Sneed, team captain JD Bertrand, Audric Estime and Benjamin Morrison. Let's relive the experience from Notre Dame's 4th consecutive ranked primetime matchup through the numbers. All stats are provided from our Stats tab here on our website provided from our partners at Cover2 Data! You can find the link to our stats page below at the bottom of this article or at the top banner of our website.

Photo by Matt Cashore


Notre Dame closed out their tough ranked primetime stretch going and even 2-2. A lot of college football fans had predicted Notre Dame goes 10-2 to finish their season. However, maybe 0.01% predicted who the Irish would lose to. Even though the boys were favored going into this game, it still felt like the media was setting up the Irish for failure. Safe to say, these guys didn't think so and knew who they were coming into this game, playing probably the best football we have seen all season long with one of the greatest defensive performances ever held in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish forced not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 total turnovers. Three of those being from former Heisman winner and current #1 overall projected draft pick, Caleb Williams. The Irish shut down one of, if not, the best offense in the country in this game solidifying themselves in the conversation to be one of the nation's best defenses in college football.

Photo by Yahoo Sports


Let's dive into some numbers after this weekend's historic performance. For starters, Notre Dame held USC's offense, who was averaging 491.7 yards per game, to just 301. Sure it's still 300, but for ranked #10 USC that is an off day and Notre Dame will take that any day of the week. Caleb Williams came into this game averaging 332.9 passing yards per game, he finished with just 199 passing yards. For a former Heisman winner, that number should not be that low. Who do we credit for shutting down this electric offense? Literally everyone, Al Golden called a fantastic game in only his second showing against Williams and the Trojans, individual performances for the ages from LB Jaylen Sneed, LB JD Bertrand, and none other than the senior safety, Xavier Watts. Of course, we can't forget about Coach Freeman for preparing the guys for this big morale boosting game. In this game alone, Notre Dame had a total of 36 pressures on the QB with a total of 6 sacks, a season high for the Irish. People who didn't watch the game would've thought the offense just exploded and put up a crazy amount of points. Sam Hartman and company dialed up some electric plays throughout the game, such as a 46 yard dime for a touchdown to WR Chris Tyree. Estime pounded the ground 22 total times for 95 yards and 2 TDs, while nobody else on the team had more than 3 carries. I was very happy to see Estime get such a heavy workload with the circumstances of the weather allowing Parker to make the right play calls. If you read my last article for the sports betting picks, you'd know it was no secret the Irish were going to pound the ball down USC's throat all night. Not to mention Hartman played a clean, safe game compared to last week, being efficient with his passing completing 65% of his passes with a QBR of 80.7, which is definitely signs of improvement - although his numbers didn't necessarily jump off the page. The offense would've never been in some of those positions to score if it weren't for the defense. Even the 99 yard kick return from Jadarian Price - if USC wouldn't have scored, Price never would have made history! The 28 point win was largest margin of victory for Notre dame vs a top 10 opponent since, guess who, USC in 1995 when they were ranked 5th in the country. Also, one more for the scoring record books, the Irish put up a whopping 48 points, making it the 4th most vs an AP top 10 opponent by the Irish, which dates back to 1936, impressive numbers there.

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Now onto the notable individual stat lines from last weekend's game. Starting with one of the highest rated corners in all of college football, Benjamin Morrison. Morrison has had a very solid year. He hasn't had any 2 or 3 INT games like last years Clemson or Boston College game, but he has played his role very well and became one of college football's most prized players. Alongside Morrison, is captain Cam Hart. Hart has developed very well into the player he is now, and has progressively gotten better over the course of his tenure. This past Saturday, these two lined up against one of the nation's best WR cores. Brenden Rice, Taj Washington, Michael Jackson lll, Mario Williams, and the electric Zachariah Branch make up an elite crew for the Trojans, and Morrison and Hart kept them in check all night long. Morrison held his matchup, Brenden Rice, who is Jerry Rice's son, to just 2 catches, for 18 yards with one of those being a score. With those numbers, this now means Morrison has held Jordan Addison, Josh Downs, Zay Flowers, Puka Nacua, Brenden Rice, and Marvin Harrison Jr. twice, under 32.7 yards per game. All of those guys have incredible NFL talent, nice to see Ben proving himself to scouts and solidifying himself as a top 5 corner in the country. Jaylen Sneed had one of those games where he just made sure his presence was felt all night. You heard his name making plays, even defending some passes. His stat line doesn't show it, but he was making an impact just as much as team leading tackler JD Bertrand was that night. Sneed recorded his first collegiate sack on Williams before he was benched for the night. As said earlier, JD Bertrand led the team in total tackles with 11 to his name. Bertrand had a key play in the game causing a failed 4th down conversion in Irish territory as he stuffed Austin Jones in the backfield before he was even handed the ball. Bertrand also managed to share a sack in the game. The 11 tackles tallied to Bertrand made him retake the lead in the team's total tackle board, swapping spots with DL Howard Cross lll. Onto the man of the hour, senior safety, Xavier Watts. This dude had one of the best performances I have ever seen. Watts recorded 7 total tackles, second highest on the team in the game, making his total on the season 20. The senior from Omaha decided to start this turnover party with an interception on just the 4th play from scrimmage to set up an early Irish touchdown. His second interception came in the second quarter, again setting up an Irish touchdown. 28 of the 48 points were caused off turnovers from Saturday, all possessions starting in Trojan territory. Watts wasn't done just yet though. He had an impressive 3rd down stop, out-smarting Williams, a pass breakup, and of course a forced fumble on the last drive of the game, as if the fumble recovered for a touchdown on the drive right before wasn't the stab in the heart for Williams and USC. I don't think we have ever seen a performance like this from an individual in Notre Dame stadium, much less against the former Heisman winner. Safe to say, this one will go in the history books for the senior.

Photo by Getty Images


An impressive performance such as this going into the bye week after such a long, tough stretch, is exactly what this team needed. Now they can play with a confidence that hopefully will never run out as they enter in the last half of their season against Pitt in two weeks, then on the road in off brand Death Valley in Clemson. After Clemson, the Irish get another break before heading back home for Senior Day against Sam Hartman's former team, Wake Forest, and finally closing out the season on a revenge game, that should not be one, on the road to visit rival Stanford. After this performance, I have no doubt this team has potential to win out by double digits in every game and as fans we cannot wait to see it. As the Irish enjoy the week of rest, we'll look into the future after the ranked slate of game's happen this coming weekend. Again, thanks to our partners at Cover2 Data for providing the numbers and all the stats in this article and many more to come. You can view our stats tab by clicking this link below to see yourself inside the numbers.


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