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Game Notebook: Notre Dame 31, USC 16

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Get the ball out quickly please

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish continued their dominance over the USC Trojans on the Brian Kelly era with a 31-16 victory on a crisp night in South Bend.

Put it on the back of Kyren Williams

Running back Chris Tyree was out against USC as he is still trying to come back from a turf toe injury. This meant that Kyren Williams was going to see even more carries than normal and was going to need to be a big part of the offensive plan. Kyren answered the bell with a 25 carry night that racked up 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also caught 6 passes on 6 targets for 42 yards — he even fair caught a punt for a total of 32 touches on the night.

He was a workhorse.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

From start to finish

There hasn’t been one game before tonight that I felt good about the offensive line from start to finish. That changed against the Trojans with Joe Alt, Andrew Kristofic, Jarrett Patterson, Cain Madden, and Josh Lugg. The running game was solid — and more importantly, it was solid with Jack Coan playing quarterback.

Speaking of which... the Irish only gave up one sack on the night. The sack was definitely on them and NOT on Jack Coan holding on to the ball longer than he should have (or running into a pass rusher). It was a cohesive unit, and now the Irish really have something to work with in its final five games.

Points off the board

For the sixth game in a row, the Irish defense has held their opponent under 30 points. That isn’t an overly impressive stat, but they have averaged just a shade over 20 points allowed during that time — just a couple of points difference than what we came to expect under Clark Lea. Their performance against USC was somewhat similar to a Lea game as it gave up quite a bit of yards, but kept the Trojans off the board (mostly).

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

USC only scored 3 points in the first three quarters of the game. A terrific play by Justin Ademilola and Myron Tagovailola-Amosa forced a tipped pass from Kedon Slovis to get picked off by Bo Bauer and ran down to the 4 yard line. So despite all of these 424 yards gained by the Trojans, it really netted nothing.

Listening to what I’ve been screaming

For most of the season most of us have been extremely frustrated with the way the offense has played. Whether it was the poor play by the offensive line, quarterback craziness, or strange playcalling — it’s been highly stressful. For the past 4 weeks (at least) my biggest complaint has been the lack of quick plays and the lack of attacking the perimeter with our speed guys. Basically, I just wanted the ball to quickly get to one of our playmakers in space.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

That finally happened against USC in a consistent manner. Jack Coan mostly dropped back just 3 steps and fired away. Coan was 21-28 for 189 yards and a touchdown. The lone interception was on a deep ball that was arguably a reception depending on your point of view. The yards were low, but it helped create space in the running game, and was very effective on 3rd down. More please.

Fresh impact

It’s quite remarkable to come out of a game and NOT have a huge chunk of Notre Dame fans complain about the lack of playing time for the freshmen. While that argument/debate can be shelved for another time, we do need to continue to point out the tremendous impact the freshmen are having in 2021.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First and foremost, Joe Alt continues to impress as the starting left tackle. Is it perfect? No — but it’s been solid and it’s quite something that a freshmen brought stability to such an important position. Logan Diggs didn’t have the follow-up that he wanted from the VT game, but the staff continues to trust him out there which is high praise enough. Lorenzo Styles was a big part of the gameplan — especially early as he pulled in 3 passes for 57 yards. Most of the yards by Styles were all him as these were quick hitters. Lorenzo’s freshmen teammate Deion Colzie also pulled in a pass for 13 yards, which came at a crucial time in the game.

And then there’s quarterback Tyler Buchner. Notre Dame might want to start using him more as the “redzone” option, and perhaps they will moving forward. Buchner was 2-2 for 24 yards, and he had 11 yards rushing which included a touchdown run late in the game to help the Irish put the game away.

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports