Well, that was fun. I’d be lying if I told you I’m not still shocked at what we saw last night in South Bend. Coming into this game my hopes were not high. Even with the struggles of the USC defense, I didn’t think Notre Dame would be able to keep up considering the struggles the Irish have had offensively. I thought if Notre Dame did happen to pull one out, it was going to be close. Maybe having to see last week’s loss in person caused it to sit on me more than it did everyone else. Whatever the reason I’m not ready to give this team the thumbs up just yet. This was a gutsy win and can be huge for this team for the rest of the season. There is however a lot they still need to look at heading into the bye week.
*Insert standing ovation gif*
Despite my concerns, we’ll start with good vibes after a win. This defense just put up one of the best performances from a unit as a whole (considering the situation) that I’ve ever seen. The week after a deflating loss in Louisville, you have to come back against last year’s Heisman winner and one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. An offense and a quarterback who put you on every highlight reel ESPN played on TV for the past year. Not only did you show up and play strong against them. You destroyed them and gave them nothing for four quarters.
Xavier Watts had a performance we will remember for quite some time and it was so much fun to watch. The defensive line embarrassed their o-line and made Williams force things all night long. The defensive backs were then able to sit back and make plays all night long. We already knew this defense was solid but we saw last night just how dominant they can be when they put it all together.
The players deserve praise for their execution but Al Golden deserves his flowers for this gameplan. He held a Lincoln Riley offense to its worst yards per play in a game (4.1) at either USC or Oklahoma. He found the weaknesses and put personnel in place to execute. At the end of the day, they did almost to perfection. Some people may say the USC offense is a bit of a one-man show, which I partially agree. But this defense showed up and made them a no-man show.
Different week, same story.
As exciting as the defense was last night the offense was equally as uninspiring. It’s nothing new but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to watch. This offense as a whole more than anyone else needs this bye week. It’s depressing that this offense with Sam Hartman is giving me the same vibes as the ‘21 Jack Coan-led offense. We all think this season is a waste of Hartman but I say this offense is wasting this defense. I’ve stopped thinking to myself when the Irish offense comes out “They have to do something” because I have no expectation they will do so.
Ironically enough they did respond once with the long ball to Tyree. That was a huge play and put a stop to the momentum USC was gaining. The issue is they can’t do anything close to that 99.9% of the time. I didn’t have as much of an issue with the playcalling this week as I did last week. I still don’t love it but this week felt like a lot of executional failure. I’m hoping getting healthier during the bye week will remedy at least some of that.
I think this line is a focal point for a lot of the struggles this offensive unit is having. It’s funny that I feel similar about this offense as I did the ‘21 offense considering the o-line was a lot of the issues they had that season. Our expectations for them preseason may have blinded us to how much of a speedbump they are in regards to getting this whole offense up to speed. We’ve been critical of the pass protection but the run game struggles are starting to rear their ugly head more and more. 125 yards rushing against this USC defense is not good. Especially when you’re only able to put up 126 yards in the air.
As I previously mentioned this offense is in desperate need of a bye week. I am more concerned about this unit after this win than I was heading into the game. While that may seem odd, I thought this would be a get-right opportunity against a below-average defense. They looked just as lost as they have the last three weeks. Whatever assessing Freeman said they were going to do better have been rescheduled for the bye week because I didn’t see it.
Everybody take a breath.
There’s a mixed bag of emotions heading into the bye week. The defense showed me everything I could ask for last night. The team as a whole responded to a rough loss the week before and laid the wood to their biggest rival. At the same time, my concern for the offense has only risen and the loss to Louisville is even more frustrating considering their loss to Pitt. I’m going to go ahead and take advantage of the bye week and just sit on the good vibes of obliterating the Trojans for two weeks. We will see if this team can ride the wave and close out the season as strong as they did last year.