The day after
1. Notre Dame's second touchdown drive near the end of the second half was on the heels of Cam McDaniel. Notre Dame started the drive at its own 9-yard line, but after Rees completed an 8-yard pass to Troy Niklas on first down, McDaniel carried for 24 to Notre Dame's 41-yard line and three plays later, rushed for 36 yards (career long, and did you see that juke he had to shake the defender?) to USC's 11-yard line. From there, Tommy Rees found T.J. Jones, who had a heck of an 11-yard catch in the end zone for the go-ahead score. McDaniel finished with 18 carries for 102 yards, and he averaged an impressive 5.1 average per carry, albeit he did have a fumble that could have proved costly. 2. How about the play of the defense? The entire defense looked sharp last night, and it wasn't just veterans Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix up front. Freshmen Cole Luke, Devin Butler, Max Redfield, and Jaylon Smith (especially Smith) performed with an abundance of confidence and smarts. Safety Eilar Hardy and linebackers Joe Schmidt and Kendall Moore provided meaningful snaps when called upon. Head coach Brian Kelly noted after the game: "I looked up one time and I was like, man, we've got a lot of guys out here. And they were just making plays, playing hard, competing. Romeo is out there, and you've got Butler and Luke and Joey Schmidt, you've just got a lot of guys, Max Redfield played today. Good to see all those guys and all of them contributing in some fashion. I think we're really starting to get that confidence that maybe at times we were lacking, and they're playing with a lot of confidence right now." Loved that third down hit late in the game by Joe Schmidt. So did Dan Fox, who said after the game: "He's like my younger brother. It was a game-changing play. It saved the game. It was awesome." Notre Dame held USC to 2-of-13 on third down conversions and 0-of-2 on fourth down. 3. Being the offensive play-caller that I'm not, on the first offensive drive for the Irish once they got inside the 8-yard line, the play-calling seemed a little questionable. Notre Dame opted to run the pistol with Cam McDaniel – four times in a row. On 1st and goal from the 8-yard line, McDaniel gained three yards. Second down – two yards; third down – one yard; fourth down – loss of three, and USC freshman Su'a Cravens showed why he was rated as the nation's No. 1 safety last year coming out of high school when he tackled McDaniel for a loss coming off the blitz. Like the call to go for six there instead of three, but especially on third and fourth down, I would have opted to hand off from under center. On fourth down, Notre Dame had about six inches to go in order to punch it in. 4. Regarding the heat directed all season at Tommy Rees… Doesn't the blame fall squarely on Everett Golson's shoulders? He's the one that let the team down this season, in my opinion, not Rees. Yet, he'll come back next season, and all will be forgotten/forgiven. Not saying Golson doesn't deserve a second chance, of course he does, but Rees is doing the best with what he's got, and that shouldn't be dismissed. We all know Rees is limited athletically, but he wasn't a five-star recruit that was expected to be a four-year contributor. He competes to the best of his ability, doesn't complain, and is worried more about wins and losses than his own statistics. That last fact is obvious, especially in today's college football era of freshman signal-callers putting up gaudy numbers. And, he did lead Notre Dame on two touchdown drives in the first half, capping off both with touchdown passes. 5. USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor hurt the Irish, but he didn't destroy them. Especially when it was known wide receiver Marquise was no longer a go, Agholor was USC's No. 1 target. He finished with six receptions for 89 yards and four punt returns for 100 yards. However, Notre Dame held his longest reception to 32 yards, something Kelly can live with. "Offensively they hit us with a couple of dig routes (with Agholor). One was late in the game where they caught us, and we were in a drop-8 situation. We would have liked to have defended a little bit better. What we were both concerned with is him not getting over the top on a PAP or play action pass. I thought we defended well. If he was going to hit us on some drive routes and some intermediate routes, we were going to rally and tackle him, and that was the extent of it." 6. The atmosphere was incredible. Even inside the press box, you could feel the energy last night. Before the game, I was observing the recruits while I was one sideline. They all looked like they were having a good time, taking in warm-ups and sharing conversations with each other and some of the coaching staff. When Brian Kelly first came onto the field, the first hand he shook was that of Purdue commit Drue Tranquill. Notre Dame recruiting analyst J.R. Sandlin was active on the sidelines, dressed is a suit and tie per usual. Active as well was Sarah Lawless, coordinator of on-campus recruiting. Of the ones I observed in pre-game, the Florida boys stuck together, commits Richard Yeargin and Corey Holmes. Commits Quenton Nelson and Greer Martini were together most of the time, and the California standouts including Tyler Luatua, Damien Mama, Erik Brown and Juju Smith stood side-by-side most of the time. Nick Watkins and Payton Hendrix hung out together as well. FYI, Mama's dad is an older, identical version of his son. Defensive tackle Elijah Taylor, who picked up an offer yesterday, took in the pre-game from the end zone with this mother and father. Speaking more of the atmosphere, Bon Jon Jovi roamed the sidelines and greeted the people in the crowd like the rock star that he is. Next to me, a man sprinkled his father's ashes on the North end zone and got pretty emotional doing it. That was an awesome sight.
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