The Eye in the Sky - 1st Half

Trickery Notre Dame's only asset in an otherwise underwhelming first half.

Below is the first half of IrishEyes full game-tape review of the Irish offense vs. the Trojans. The second half will be published later today.

First Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: After forcing a Trojans punt, the Irish ran 5 plays and gained 21 yards (one first down). 2:08 time of possession.

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: Sam Young misses a block in space on the opening TE screen pass while Trevor Robinson executes his as does Eric Olsen. Rudolph was forced to delay a bit in the scrum with Young on the turf and is held to five yards (nearly the yardage an unblocked reception would have allowed)…Paul Duncan, Chris Stewart, and Eric Olsen all expertly block the Tate option play (below), but Tate is stopped by LB Michael Morgan…Young is beaten to the outside by DE Wes Horton though ND's screen play was diagnosed by the Trojans front seven, regardless…Young is beaten badly on the ensuing 3rd and 7 play by Malik Jackson (outside swim move) and Clausen is forced into a ill-advised incomplete pass over the middle.

'Backs and Receivers: WR John Goodman shows good speed to turn the corner, gaining 12 as the "Wildcat" QB. Parris cut his defender to the ground but a speedy, hustling Everson Griffen (LDE) tackled Parris from behind…Golden Tate (as the right halfback) takes a shotgun handoff running left from Jimmy Clausen and fakes a pitch to Armando Allen (left halfback), but is held to three yards. A Tate pitch, coupled by either an Allen move or Goodman screen block could have done some damage off the left side.

Second Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: Trailing 7-0, Notre Dame managed just 4 net yards on 6 plays, though they gained a first down prior to bogging down and punting from its own 30. USC 7 ND 0

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: DT Jurrell Casey slips an Olsen block to combine with an uncovered SS Will Harris, holding Robert Hughes to no gain. Excellent blocks by Kyle Rudolph and Young on the play while a pulling Stewart also did his job…the right trio of Robinson, Young, Rudolph, and Mike Ragone all execute seal blocks to spring Hughes off right tackle for a 7-yard gain. Young misses (a very difficult assignment on the move) against WLB Malcolm Smith in space. Parris expertly cuts Horton to the ground on the outside…Though he did recover, Young is initially beaten again, this time by Everson Griffen, and an oddly gun-shy Clausen reverts to his 2008 form, bailing early to the right for a needless throw-away on 2nd down. Clausen had plenty of room to shift left and would have had several seconds to scan the field…Ragone is beaten to the outside by Malik Smith and Duncan is abused by a Griffen spin move, resulting in an 8-yard sack of Clausen to force an Irish punt.

'Backs and Receivers: Hughes ran with power on his 7-yard gain, adding two tough yards against two tacklers…Parris with the first of several clutch catches, going low for a 5-yard gain on a 3rd and 3 sitting in a seam in the zone…On 1st and 10, Clausen bails on his protection way too early (they were beaten off the snap, and recovered to put control the rush), throwing the ball out of bounds after one read…

Third Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: Trailing 7-0, Notre Dame took 3:46 to travel 56 yards in 9 plays to tie the score. The Irish gained three first downs including a perfectly executed 4th and 2 fake field goal pass from Holder Eric Maust to Parris on the right sideline to set up the score. USC 7 ND 7

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: Nice lead block by Ragone from the Offset-I on 1st and 10 helping Hughes gain 5 yards on the drive's second play. Decent blocks by Stewart, Duncan, and Olsen as well, though Olsen didn't find his second assignment, WLB Shane Horton on the play…The Irish interior executed w win and a stalemate on consecutive runs to earn a first down…Young, Stewart, Robinson and Duncan afford Clausen excellent protection on 1st and 10 but a still-shaky Clausen fires into a tight sideline window (incomplete) toward a well-covered Tate. In Clausen's defense, seven Trojans were once again in coverage and he did fire a ball to Tate's hands (Tate would have landed out of bounds)…Robinson needed to choose one man to block (rather than neither) on Allen's 5-yard Wildcat run. Duncan, Stewart, Olsen, and Rudolph all executed their blocks to perfection. Olsen adroitly picked up a blitzing safety on the play…On 1st and goal after the successful fake field goal, Rudolph, Burger, Young, Robinson, Olsen and a pulling Duncan all execute enough of a push to get Hughes into the end zone.

'Backs and Receivers: Tate catches a 5-yard hitch and finished for five more yards after the catch for an Irish first down…Another strong north-south run by Hughes on the ensuing play…Hughes follows a stubborn Irish interior of Stewart, Olsen, and Robinson for four more yards, setting up 3rd and 1 from the USC 37…FB James Aldridge falls forward for a yard and a first down on a belly dive into the middle of the line…after taking a Goodman hand-off from the Wildcat, Allen follows an Olsen seal block through a gaping hole but is tackled in pursuit by MLB Chris Gallippo after 6 yards…Allen is held to two yards over right tackle on a 3rd and 4 out of the Wildcat. Harris simply left Tate in the slot and was an unblocked defender who stopped Allen who would have gained a first down on the play (Tate could, in no way, get to the alert Horton, who simply took off toward the line on the snap)…Quality pass by Holder Eric Maust (a pitcher on the ND baseball team) to Parris on the fake field goal. The Irish gained 25 yards on the play as Maust hit a lingering Parris on the Irish sideline…Good power (and ball security) by Hughes as the Wildcat QB for the score. Hughes used his vision to eventually follow a pulling Paul Duncan over the right side for the tying score.

Three 1st Quarter Observations:

  • Clausen uncharacteristically shaky in the pocket. He admitted (post-game) being out of rhythm early.
  • ND's offensive tackles were no match for the Trojans edge rushing speed.
  • Credit scouting/Weis for a perfect fake field goal play that caught the Trojans. ND rushed onto the field in a scrum which allowed Parris to remain undetected on the sideline.

First Notre Dame Drive/2nd Quarter:

Breakdown: The Irish go backward, losing two yards on three plays (1:03 time of possession) after USC connected on a field goal for an early 2nd Quarter lead. USC 10 ND 7

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: Duncan gives too much ground on a bull rush by DE Nick Perry. USC beat the Irish with a 3-man rush on the play. Perry was the only rusher not double-teamed on the play…Solid protection for Clausen on 3rd and 12 but Clausen's pass is tipped by a backfield spy, one of seven Trojans in coverage.

'Backs and Receivers: Deion Walker was probably interfered with on a delayed 2nd down slant. Walker needs to play a little bigger and better shield defenders on those routes.

Second Drive/2nd Quarter:

Breakdown: Following another USC field goal, the Irish moved 43 yards on 7 plays in 4:21 but the drive stalled at the USC 42-yard line. USC 13 ND 7

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: Robinson is beaten by DT Jurrell Casey to stop Allen up the middle for a yard. Olsen, Young, Rudolph, and a pulling Stewart had otherwise successfully blocked the play and a hole existed, possibly with a large gain as the result if Perry was unable to catch Allen on the backside… Stewart and Young execute their blocks and Allen's subtle backfield move forced Gallippo to take a false step out of his gap as Allen gains 12 through the B-Gap (guard/tackle hole)…Olsen erred by not snapping the ball when a blitzing Taylor Mays was far offsides (he got back to his side as Olsen never noticed him crossing the line of scrimmage: a five-yard penalty)…

'Backs and Receivers: Excellent effort by a strong Kamara, pushing his defender 5-6 yards for a first down after a short catch…Tate catches an uncovered bubble and Parris gets enough of CB Josh Pinkard to aid Tate in an 11-yard gain. LB Michael Morgan made an all-star play in pursuit…ND executes at the point but Perry is unaccounted for off right tackle and Allen is limited by the backside tackle to gain of just two yards (not Sam Young's fault: the Irish needed to detach Rudolph and bring him to the weak side to account for Perry before the snap)… Pre-snap confusion leads to Parris (slot) and Tate (outside) both blocking the same Trojan defender and Rudolph gains just one on the a bubble screen. Live, I thought it was Tate's error (and the DVR replay can't prove it either way, though Tate's unblocked CB made the tackle)…Clausen a bit behind Rudolph in the flat on 3rd and 6 (complete) though the big tight end likely would have been stopped short of the marker, regardless.

Last Play/2nd Quarter:

Breakdown: The Irish receive a USC punt at their own 10-yard line and lose one on an off-tackle carry by Hughes.

Two Second Quarter Observations:

  • Most defenses will fail employing a three or four-man rush and dropping seven, but USC has the defensive talent to execute his scheme.
  • Where's Shaq? I'll ask for an official answer tomorrow.

Halftime Score: USC 13 Notre Dame 7

Personal Groupings:

  • Three-Wide Receiver Sets: 14
  • Two-Tight End Sets:6
  • Off-Set I-Formation (Mike Ragone as FB): 1
  • Power I-Formation (James Aldridge as FB): 2
  • Four-Wide Receiver Sets: 2 (both resulted in an empty backfield)
  • Wild-Cat (John Goodman or Robert Hughes as "QB"): 4
  • One Fake Field Goal Top Stories