Defense looks to avoid repeat performance

After grinding out game-winning touchdown last season, Notre Dame's rushing attack continues to improve.

LOS ANGELES – In the biggest moment, the USC run defense came up small against Notre Dame.

On its game-winning drive last season at the Coliseum, the Irish ran on five of their seven plays for 62 yards, including Robert Hughes' five-yard touchdown to pull ahead 20-16 and end the Trojans' streak of eight consecutive victories.

The Irish finished with 147 yards on 32 carries.

Now the ground game is performing even better in its second year under head coach Brian Kelly, averaging 194 yards per game. Oxnard (Calif.) native Cierre Wood has rushed for more than 100 yards in three games and has scored six touchdowns, while 5-foot-10, 230-pound battering ram Jones Gray added another four scores.

"They're physical," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said. "They fall forward a bunch, they run through you. They're hard to bring down and are a good one-two punch.

"Their offensive line is playing very consistent, it's an old offensive line, a veteran group and they play together really well. They don't make many mistakes at all."

Middle linebacker Chris Galippo said the two backs offer a dimension of power to the Irish spread offense. While the defense is allowing just under 100 yards per game this year, it failed to contain in its loss at Arizona State, as bruising junior Cameron Marshall ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns.

"Just got to know how to tackle the bigger guys and know what you're going to get with both of them," Galippo said.

Memories of last year still sting for the redshirt senior and have pushed him and the team all week long.

"Not in a bad way though," Galippo said. "We got to go make sure we get a W."

Tyler, Lee Good to Go
Running back Marc Tyler and wide receiver Marqise Lee said once again Thursday they are ready to play against Notre Dame.

"I feel good," said Tyler, who dislocated his shoulder at California. "I know I can go. I'm ready to go down fighting."

Tyler went through his most extensive action since the injury Thursday, but did not participate in contact drills this week and Kiffin labeled him a "game-time decision" Wednesday.

As for Lee, who sprained his shoulder against the Golden Bears, he said he is "not 100 percent yet, but I'll be there by Saturday."

Corner Torin Harris (shoulder) again missed practice and is doubtful to play.

Kiffin Downplays Recruiting Implications
During the buildup to USC-UCLA, the effects on recruiting are always a topic of conversation, as the result of the game has been known to influence where someone will sign. But while the Trojans and Irish have gone head-to-head for a handful of players in recent years, notably linebacker Manti Te'o, Kiffin believes the timing of this rivalry reduces its impact on Signing Day.

"In the end, by the time guys sign the papers so much has happened since this game," he said. "We've seen it help some times, you go back to Reggie (Bush), he's at that game when Carson (Palmer) has the big game and he was a Notre Dame leaner at that time and so we've seen where it's helped at times but at the end of the day after this Saturday there's so much time, so many official visits that go on, so many conversations that I think the game by that point, when they sign the papers is really out of their mind."

Notre Dame is scheduled to host seven five-star recruits on official visits this weekend, including Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove OL/DL Arik Armstead, who decommitted from USC earlier this week.


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