Turnovers have been the direct cause of many of Notre Dame's woes this season.
Saturday night's rivalry matchup versus USC didn't turn out to be any different. The Irish found just about every way to give up the ball—and in almost every important situation.
First it was backup Dayne Crist's costly goal-line fumble that led to a long touchdown recovery by Trojan defensive back Jawarza Starling.
Shortly after, with the Irish driving with momentum, Tommy Rees was back on the field. A highly-debatable backwards pass later, and the ball went back to USC. Every chance USC was given, the Trojans capitalized on and scored.
In Notre Dame's first two games this season against South Florida and Michigan (both losses), turnovers were aplenty. The following four games, all wins, were cleansed of the turnover woes. It's transparent enough to derive what causes Notre Dame to fall.
The Irish finished Saturday's game with a minus-three turnover margin.
After a first half that Brian Kelly called "the worst of the year," Notre Dame went into the locker room down just 17-10. Momentum was building and the stadium was alive (including Crazy Train playing each chance it got).
It isn't hard to see what the weakness of this Notre Dame team is by now—turnovers. Not only turnovers, but turnovers in costly and crucial moments of the game. No matter how good or talented a team is, turnovers are one part of the game that cannot be counteracted.
If the Irish cannot correct this weakness, they can expect to continue losing football games—especially to teams with equally talented depth charts.
Brian Kelly made some costly decisions in this contest. There is no question that Irish fans will be irate after this one, no matter who or where that anger is directed to. Personal foul penalties and mental mistakes just fuel that anger even more, and deservedly so.
There is no reason for this kind of loss at Notre Dame, especially with the elite talent currently in place. Coming off a bye week, the Irish should have been mentally and physically ready to face any team in the country.
Brian Kelly should and will take plenty of heat after this one—all BCS hopes died in South Bend Saturday night.