The first positive was the play of Brady Quinn. Quinn was a modest 15-for-34 in passing for 168 yards and a touchdown, and didn't throw an interception all game. Quinn showed patience in the pocket and the ability to look for a second or third receiver. He was able to do this in his first experience playing in "the" rival game against one of the best defenses in the country. Brady Quinn made a huge step in his development we think.
Another positive was the pass protection for Quinn. Quinn had a number of good, solid pockets to throw from. The offensive line did give up four sacks but most were "garbage" sacks that came when it was clearly obvious the Irish had to throw. The offensive line is far from a finished product, but they clearly have improved.
The next positive was the early running. We don't feel the Irish made the proper adjustment when USC made a commitment to stop the run but they were also down and it's hard to run the football when you need to throw the football. We were just pleased to see the Irish able to run against a very good USC defense, early.
The Irish also appear to be having a few playmakers emerging in the passing game. Quinn looks to feel very comfortable throwing to tight end Anthony Fasano. Fasano led the team with four catches and a touchdown, and the Irish using the middle of the field will help stretch the defense and keep defenses more honest when attacking the Irish offense.
Rhema McKnight continues to step up as the man who wants the ball. The Irish need to find more ways to get the ball in his hands. We don't understand the need to put Holiday in the game if it keeps McKnight off the field. The Irish haven't thrown to Holiday since their first experiment of using Holiday as a wide receiver so we wonder what the point is in having him out there. McKnight seems to want the ball and makes things happen when he does get the ball.
The Irish had some positives on offense, but they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and poor execution. The Irish are getting better, however, but are they getting better at the pace many would expect? Should they be further ahead than they are?
As for the defense, we cannot really find any positives. The Irish were dismal all game and we can't think of any logical reason for being out-classed, again, by the same team, at home. Yes, USC has a tremendous amount of talent on offense, but there is no excuse for three straight scoring drives of 80 yards, for touchdowns, and allowing 551 yards of offense.
The truth about this team is they have a ways to go but don't be fooled into thinking this team is awful. Notre Dame has played five teams ranked in the top 15 and have beaten one of them. They had their chances to beat Michigan State and Purdue as well. No team has come close to matching the schedule the Irish have played thus far, and we doubt any team will.
The next few weeks will show the resolve of this team, and coaching ability of the Irish staff. Will this team have any fight left after starting 2-4? Will this team have the pride to go out and beat Boston College? Both the Irish coaching staff and the Irish team will have to dig even deeper to find the will. Boston College won't quit, they've proven that over the years, no matter how bad their season is. Which team will want this game more?