Let's not get fooled here. Jarrett is a special talent. He did a little of everything. Jarrett caught a one handed pass and another leaping grab along the sideline. The biggies: three touchdowns from the junior wide receiver, including the back breaker from 43 yards out in the fourth quarter to seal the game away for USC. For the contest, Jarrett caught seven balls for 132 yards. He was too much for the Irish secondary to contain, who have had problems shutting down wide receivers with athletic ability and speed (see Mario Manningham from Michigan, Selwyn Lymon from Purdue and Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina).
"He's a great player," quarterback Brady Quinn said of Jarrett. "Anytime those guys have the ability to get the ball in their hands, they are going to make plays. That's why he's broken all the records and done what he's done."
Notre Dame did pick off Booty twice. But when a big play was needed, the Trojans went to the pass. It allowed open room for running back C.J. Gable. The freshman showed the Irish that he'll be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years as he accumulated 107 yards on 20 carries. The trio of wide receivers, most notably Jarrett, leave a lasting impression on opposing secondaries.
"They made the plays when they needed to," safety Tommy Zbikowski said. "We didn't make the plays we needed to. Give credit to their receivers. They are heck of receivers."
"They are a very talented group of wide receivers," Mike Richardson said. "We knew they were some of the top wide receivers in the nation. They really showed it today."
*Quinn was solid on Saturday night. The senior signal caller completed 22-of-45 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Quinn did not throw an interception but was sacked three times. He also was the team's leading rusher, scrambling for 74 yards, including one 60-yard jaunt.
Those numbers don't tell the whole story. The offense never found their rhythm against a speedy USC defense. Both teams racked up 404 yards of offense but it was clear that the Trojans attack rattled the Notre Dame group. On some throws, Quinn was off target. On others, he was victimized by drops. Rhema McKnight made some spectacular receptions deep along the sideline and also caught a touchdown to add up to a 106-yard effort. But he couldn't nab three crucial passes in the first half that would have kept drives alive. No one was playing the blame game after the contest.
"There are a lot of times where you can't control things in the game," Quinn said. "There are times when I missed passes and didn't do my job. No one on this offense is going to point the finger at anyone else. When it comes down to it, we didn't make enough plays as a team to win this game. They made the plays."
"I thought he had a gutty performance, to tell you the truth," head coach Charlie Weis said of Quinn. "That was not the easiest game to play. He didn't get a lot of help. We had a bunch of balls go off our hands. He was far from perfect but join the club. I was far from perfect, too."
Offensive tackle Ryan Harris thought it was the offense simply not executing.
"We had some uncharacteristic mistakes," Harris said. "When you don't execute against a great team like USC, they'll capitalize off of our mistakes. They did it every time. Their constant scoring and our lack of execution on offense was a recipe for the score we had today."
"There were a lot of missed opportunities, aside from that," Quinn said. "Really all day, we didn't have enough production and couldn't make the plays when we needed to."
*The loss leaves a black mark on the senior class. They never beat USC in their time in a Notre Dame uniform. The closest the seniors got was last season's 34-31 loss at home. The other defeats were all by double digits.
"They're very disappointed," Weis said of his seniors. "They came in here expecting to win the game. We lost the game but they came in here expecting to win the game. They're disgruntled but they know they have to suck it up and go prepare for the bowl game."
"It was pretty tough," Zbikowski said. "We've gone through four years of them and not had a win against them. It's tough when you get outplayed like that."
*Zbikowski saw his first action of the year returning kickoffs. The senior returned five kicks for an average of 21 yards per return. Last week, freshman George West fumbled a kickoff against Army and earlier in the year, David Grimes lost a key fumble in the loss to Michigan. Weis has been displeased with the unit all season and didn't want to leave any stones unturned in the chance to beat USC.
"He's worked for the last few weeks in preparation for this," Weis said. "He wasn't the only one guy on special teams. We used every guy we had on special teams today. The linebackers and DB's were all out there. If you lose a game, you lose a game but you lose a game with the best guys. There's no sense losing the game putting lesser guys in there and saying later, ‘Well, I wish we would have put the good guys in there."
"He got banged up," Weis said of Ndukwe. "His knee was a little sore. He wasn't the only guy hurt. It was a physical game. When I looked over and saw Nedu on the field, I said, ‘Let's put Bruton on the field.' I'd rather have a guy in there going full speed because he was spent at the time. I don't think he had a serious injury but I'll have to check on that."
*Notre Dame recorded just one sack in the game and linebacker Joe Brockington was the recipient. For the contest, the defensive line totaled zero sacks and a meager half a tackle for loss.
*On third and fourth down combined, the Irish were 9-for-24.