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Irish Report Card: Notre Dame 48, Southern Cal 20

Written By: Phil Kowalis|Writer|Twitter: @PhilKowalisIT

Photo By: Matt Cashore / USA Today


Notre Dame's defense likely ended USC's college football playoff hopes and crushed Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams dreams of being the first repeat Heisman trophy winner since Ohio State's Archie Griffin with a dominating performance, leading the Irish to a 48-20 victory.

The Irish defense forced five turnovers, intercepting Williams three times, and recorded six sacks as they turned in their most impressive effort of the season. The Notre Dame offense continues to struggle, as the Irish were held to only 251 yards of total offense by a USC defense that is among the worst in college football. The Irish offense was able to do just enough to take advantage of being set up with a short field to score three first half touchdowns with the longest drive of the half being 50 yards. Notre Dame also had a contribution from the kick return team, as Jadarian Price retuned a fourth quarter kickoff 99-yards for a touchdown to give the Irish a 38-20 lead.

Let's take a look at the grades the Irish received in their win over the Trojans.

Photo By: Matt Cashore / USA Today


Offense:

Offensive Line/Tight Ends: Grade C

The offensive line was not great, but just good enough to get the win against USC.

The offensive line was markedly better than the horrendous effort they turned in last week against Louisville, as they did not allow a sack and opened just enough holes to allow the running game to produce a 125-yard effort on 29 carries for an average of 4.6 yards per rush attempt. The Notre Dame tight ends contributed four catches for 23 yards, as the Irish passing attack struggled once again.


Quarterback/Running backs: Grade B

Sam Hartman struggled with accuracy once again, missing a couple of open receivers and being slightly off target with a few other passes as the Notre Dame passing game continues to struggle to get on track. Hartman did connect with Chris Tyree on a beautifully thrown deep ball for a 46-yard touchdown and also had a four-yard scoring toss to Gi'Bran Payne.

Hartman finished the game going 13-for-20 for only 126 yards and the two touchdowns.

Audric Estime was the workhorse in the backfield for the Irish, as Estime toted the ball 22 times for 95 yards and scored two touchdowns.


Wide Receivers: Grade D

The Notre Dame wide receiver corps continue to struggle as Irish wideouts only contributed five catches for 94 yards in the contest. Chris Tyree had two catches for 64 yards and Rico Flores Jr. had a 24-yard catch for the Irish. Jordan Faison had two catches for eight yards and added 16 yards rushing. Notre Dame must figure out a way to get more production from this unit for the offense to get back on track.

Photo By: Matt Cashore / USA Today

Defense:

Defensive Line: Grade A

The Notre Dame defensive line continued their strong play this season turning in a dominate performance against the Trojans. The Irish defensive front limited the USC rushing attack to 103 yards on 37 carries, allowing only an average of 2.8 yards per carry, and pressured Trojan quarterback Caleb Williams all night long recording 3.5 of the six Irish sacks in the game.

Nana Osafo-Mensah recorded four tackles and a sack of Williams and Rylie Mills and Howard Cross each had three tackles and a half sack on the evening. Freshman Boubacar Traore made the most of his snaps, recording a strip sack of Williams in the latter stages of the game as well. This is the type of production that will be needed from this group to perform at the highest level possible.

Linebackers: Grade A

JD Bertrand continues to be a tackling machine, once again leading the Notre Dame defense in tackles with 11, six being solo tackles Bertrand also was credited with 1.5 tackles for loss and a half sack in the game. Jack Kiser added five tackles all solo and Marist Liufau added four tackles and a sack as the Irish linebacking corps had one of their strongest games of the season. Jaylen Sneed also made an impression despite a costly penalty on special teams earlier in the game, breaking up a crucial short pass over the middle in the second half.


Secondary: Grade A+

Xavier Watts turned in a monster performance against the Trojans. The Irish safety finished the game with seven tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Watts joined Notre Dame as a three-star wide receiver recruit, and has soundly transitioned into one of the more reliable options in the secondary. Benjamin Morrison added four tackles and also had an interception of a Williams pass, and DJ Brown contributed four tackles on the evening. The only blemish on this group would be the multiple penalties incurred by Morrison which did not allow the defense to get off the field at times. The Irish secondary held Caleb Williams to 199 passing yards and allowed only one passing touchdown in what will go down as the worst statistical games of Williams career to date.


Special Teams: Grade B+

Spencer Shrader made both of his field goal attempts and was a perfect 6-for-6 on PAT's

and the Notre Dame kick return unit had its best game of the season as Jadarian Price had a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown and Devyn Ford returned three kicks for 69 yards averaging 23 yards per return. Bryce McFerson continued his solid punting averaging 45.8 yards on his five punts. The aforementioned penalty on Sneed erased an opportunity for Notre Dame to widen it's lead, but overall, it was one of - if not the strongest performance from the group this season.


Overall

After turning in their worst effort of the season the Irish got the bounce back win, they desperately needed in recording the 28-point victory over the tenth ranked Trojans to improve to 6-2 on the season. Notre Dame will enjoy a much-needed bye week this week and will return to action in two weeks with a home game against the University of Pittsburgh.

The Panthers are 2-4 on the season and are coming off a 38-21 win over 14th ranked Louisville. Pittsburgh will face Wake Forest on the road this week before coming in to face the Irish.


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