An injured Tommy Rees remained anchored on the bench, and Notre Dame's (5-2) offense looked like personified molasses.
However, the Irish's stout defense penned an oppressive second-half effort to secure the victory.
USC - 10
Notre Dame - 14
Box score provided by NCAA.com.
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish Grades|
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
|vs. Trojans Week 8|
Game analysis for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Pass Offense: Tommy Rees operated a high-octane passing attack. After a delayed blitz sidelined him, the aforementioned passing "attack" puffed out plumes of fossil fuel. Andrew Hendrix looked like he attended the Tim Tebow Passing Academy.
Run Offense: Minutes before halftime, Cam McDaniel stamped an exclamation mark on the ground game. However, due to Hendrix's lackluster passing, the Trojans began creeping both safeties into the box to thwart the running game, and thwart they did.
Run Defense: Louis Nix consistently clogged the interior, while Stephon Tuitt often caused disruption and forced ball carriers to run laterally or juke back between the tackles. Silas Redd enjoyed minimal success after his explosive first-half performance.
Pass Defense: Marqise Lee was absent from the second half due to a knee injury, and Bennett Jackson subdued USC's playmaker throughout the first two quarters. Tuitt spearheaded a collectively overwhelming pass rush throughout the third and fourth quarters.
Special Teams: Notre Dame's punt coverage was brutalized. The unit never showed proper spacing nor lane discipline, which allowed Nelson Agholor (four punt returns, 100 yards) to continually exploit unset edges.
Coaching: In critical scenarios, the pistol backfired on Brian Kelly.
First-half analysis for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Pass Offense: When Tommy Rees was afforded a comfortable pocket, he dissected USC's off-man coverage with relative ease. However, whether by design or to avoid pressure, he wasn't as effective when rolling out.
Run Offense: Before Notre Dame's closing drive of the first half, the rushing offense was missing in action. Cam McDaniel then morphed into a backfield blur who snapped ankles like Slim Jims, finishing the half with 83 yards on 11 handoffs.
Run Defense: Although he was double-teamed on the majority of snaps, Louis Nix left his mark on a handful of rushing downs. USC's linemen and tight ends had their way with Nix's cohorts, though, as Silas Redd (14 carries, 91 yards) frequently bounced to the outside and torched defenders.
Pass Defense: Limiting Marqise Lee's impact is the Irish's recipe for success, and Bennett Jackson did exactly that. But Cody Kessler did find success in the middle of the field, exploiting subpar zone coverage by the linebacking corps.
Special Teams: The punt coverage unit didn't maintain lane discipline, allowing an effortless 48-yard return by Nelson Agholor. Kyle Brindza partially redeemed the unit by thumping a punt inside of USC's 5-yard line.
Coaching: Notre Dame's opening drive was a thing of methodical beauty. That is, until Brian Kelly ordered four consecutive goal-to-go rushes from the pistol.
Follow Brett on Twitter: Follow @BrettGering