BORN TO RUN
So. Many. Yards.
It began with JuJu Smith-Schuster, continued through Will Fuller, Adoree Jackson, C.J. Prosise and Ronald Jones II, and when the final carnage was counted, more than 1,000 yards of total offense was produced in Saturday night’s wild 10-point Irish victory.
“Just your normal USC/Notre Dame football game I guess,” joked Irish head coach Brian Kelly. “Look, that is as talented – those kids that made the big plays, Brown, Juju, Adoree’ Jackson – if you miss a tackle, those kids are gone.”
The trio combined for 295 yards and two touchdowns on 13 collective touches. Both Jackson and Smith-Schuster scored while Jones ripped off a 65-yard run that led to a third.
While the Irish were outgained (590-476) they likewise gashed their foe with big play weaponry, namely C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller. Notre Dame’s MVP pair combined for 306 yards from scrimmage with three trips to pay dirt.
“When you have a back like C.J. Prosise, now you have to put another guy down to defend against the run,” said Kelly. “You’re going to get one-on-one coverage with Will Fuller and in my estimation, there’s nobody that can cover him in the country one-on-one.
“That’s the balance that we have now within this offensive structure that at times we haven’t had. We’re very difficult to defend because of that.”
Fuller has averaged 21.9 yards per catch through seven games this season en route to 702 yards and eight scores – seven of them in excess of 25 yards. Prosise is approaching the 1,000-yard mark, netting 922 with 11 touchdowns on a whopping 7.1 yards per carry. Prosise has added a score via the pass.
The Irish finished with 15 plays that gained 10 yards or more.
THE CALIFORNIA KIDS
The pride of Anaheim blocked a punt and a product of Santa Clara scooped it up for a score. Mission Viejo’s own sealed Saturday night’s contest thereafter with his first theft of 2015.
Equanimeous St. Brown, Amir Carlisle, and Max Redfield. Three that got away from USC – each made the Trojans pay today.
“It felt great. It really did,” said 2012 USC transfer Amir Carlisle. “I’m going to be honest. It felt great. It’s a momentum shift when special teams is able to perform well. Coach (Scott) Booker made a great call and Equanimeous made a great play. Thank God I was able to be in the right place at the right time.
“Everyone got off the ball,” Carlisle said of the punt block. “I was surprised because I was going to go for the block and I saw someone else flash. I really don’t know what happened on their shield protection, but EQ made a great play.”
Redfield’s play was less difficult but not less important. His first interception since Game Two of the 2014 season ended the visitor’s realistic hopes with 5:23 remaining and a 10-point margin.
“It was really important to continue to build his confidence but also build off a play I made,” said senior cornerback KeiVarae Russell of his tipped pass that found Redfield’s waiting hands. “The defense has to consistently step up. I put my hand in there and didn’t know what happened but heard everybody yell. I was on the ground and saw Max running.”
Yelling appeared the order of the evening for an obviously weary – and hoarse – Joe Schmidt.
The fifth-year senior captain from Orange County nonetheless opined on the special thrill of taking down the Trojans.
“This is a game that I’ve imagined since I was five,” said Schmidt. “Playing catch with dad in the front yard, lights are on, it’s a night-time game and you imagine what the crowd would look like and the little cardinal and gold helmets will look like, and it’s even better in person than it was in the dream. To get a victory like this over an incredibly talented USC team, with so much firepower, it feels so good.”
RED ZONE REDUX?
After carving out a 21-10 lead midway through the first quarter, Notre Dame had a chance to bury their reeling guests as the half progressed. But as it did so often in the 2014 season, the dreaded red zone reared its ugly head.
Two trips inside the Trojans 10-yard line yielded just three points, as wide receiver Torii Hunter, Jr. fumbled (the result of a fine play by a diving Adoree’ Jackson) at the shadow of the visitor’s goal line and one drive later, a 1st-and-goal from the USC 5-yard line concluded with the Irish going backwards, settling for a field goal thereafter.
The Trojans responded with 21 consecutive points to claim a 31-24 edge.
“Those are always missed opportunities,” said Kelly. “(But) I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to win this game because we fumbled. There was too much confidence on our sideline. Our guys believed that they were going to win today.”
The Irish scored on four of five red zone trips, but produced just two touchdowns. Kelly’s crew had scored touchdowns on 16 of 23 red zone trips prior to the contest.
DIALING UP THE D
Mitigating the damage of USC’s 590 total yards were 18 separate snaps in which the Irish defense held the Trojans to gains of less than two yards or for lost yardage.
Junior defensive end Isaac Rochell led the way in that regard, finishing with a team-high five “Stuffs/TFL” while adding three quarterback pressures. Jaylon Smith added a pair of Stuffs among his 14 tackles and the aforementioned Russell posted 10 tackles in addition to his interception and pass defensed that led to Redfield’s pick.
Like Redfield, Russell recorded his first interception of the season – one defensive snap prior.
“I wanted to see him and the ball,” said Russell of an inside release he allowed to intended receiver Smith-Schuster. “Usually with all that space you want to take the inside away but I wanted to see the ball and him, to be able to run to the ball when I’m feeling him. I didn’t want to have my back turned and have him make the play that I made on him.”
The pick was Russell’s first from an opposing quarterback’s arm since he intercepted USC’s Max Wittek as a freshman in the regular season finale of 2012.
Notre Dame outscored the Trojans 21-0 over the final 14:20. USC managed just 29 yards on its first three drives of the quarter while falling behind in the process.
They’d amassed 503 yards prior to their fourth quarter struggles.