"I felt like we remained aggressive on offense," Sark said. "I was in tune with him [Cody Kessler] on offense. He knew what we were trying to get accomplished. We were very clear about that. He is the extension of us on offense. The gameplan was very clear for everybody."
And that was a change as a number of players felt that going into the UCLA game, there was neither clarity nor confidence but maybe too many changes in what USC was trying to do. Not so against Notre Dame.
"Our players need to feel me, not just on game day but all week long," Sark said. "I wasn't happy last week and I wasn't happy with the way we played. Maybe I had a chip on my shoulder and that set the tone for practice."
And yet, as this season has shown, what matters is how that's all carried out on game day. "Inevitably a team takes on the personality of its head coach," Sark said. "But it's a process. I hope it happens sooner rather than later."
For Sark's sake, and that of the USC program, that competitive guy at the top with a chip on his shoulder and clarity in his gameplan that, the one who is felt with certainty by his team, must indeed be in process now. After 12 games, this can no longer be just a sometime thing. Sark is right about a team taking on the personality of its head coach.
Now he has to get that personality right so the team can take it on.
BY THE NUMBERS
28You know USC has had a good day when the sports information folks are able to produce 28 postgame notes highlighting team and individual performances as they did after the Notre Dame game. Life is good in Troy on days like this.
6-35-49Cody Kessler's six TD passes were the most ever given up by Notre Dame in a single game but less noticed is the fact that USC's 35 first downs were also the most by any opponent against the Irish. Amazing. And those 49 points? They're the second-most ever scored by USC in this classic intersectional matchup, second only to the 55 in that comeback 55-24 win led by
4-6With his career-high 32 completions, Kessler reaches 292 for the season, fourth-best in USC history and his 372 yards in the air get him to 3,505 for the season, sixth-best in USC history.
79,586Too bad for those who missed this one but the crowd of 79,586 was the smallest to see a USC-Notre Dame game in the Coliseum since the 70,614 who showed up in 1986.
9That's right, the ACC officiating crew led by referee Dennis Hennigan, a Rochester, N.Y. attorney, called a total of just nine penalties (six on USC for 45 yards, three on ND for 35 yards) -- second fewest since an ACC crew called the USC-Boston College game earlier in the season and threw just five flags. Larry Scott, are you paying attention? Why not just hire these guys for next season for every game.
35-6-8Those are the numbers for Adoree Jackson's day before he left the game with concussion symptoms. The freshman two-way starter in this game had 35 snaps on defense, six on offense (scoring his second receiving TD of the season on a 16-yard catch) and eight on special teams.
3.5, 3.5Pretty neat the way a healthy J.R. Tavai was able to go out his last game at USC with 3.5 sacks equalling his total for the rest of the season. "I wish I'd been able to feel like this the whole season -- I was 100 percent healthy today," JR said.
12 for 120, 97Nelson Agholor moves up to fourth all-time for single-season catches for USC with 97 after grabbing 12 for 120 yards and a TD Saturday.
0, 157-36USC hasn't allowed a single opponent to score on the opening drive this season helping USC to an amazing 157-36 scoring edge in the first quarter for the year.
7 for 7, 181 for 187With his seven-for-seven day on extra points, senior Andre Heidari set new Pac-12 career records for both made extra points (181) and attempts (187) breaking Trojan Ryan Killeen's 176 of 180 from 2002 through 2004.
1,200Saturday marked USC's 1,200th all-time football game.
NOTRE DAME COACH BRIAN KELLY On how the game went: "I thought (Coach) Sarkisian was very generous today running the football to keep the score where it was."
STEVE SARKISIAN On what might have been for his Trojans: "Quite honestly, I have already started that . . . how we are going to fix some of the issues . . . Sure, we are really, really close. Some of these defeats we have had are good for us. We will be better for it. Do I wish Hayes [Pullard] could have gone out playing in the Pac-12 championship game? Sure I do. But some of those losses (ASU, Utah, UCLA) those are as valuable lessons as today's win . . . We will learn from it. It will start Jan. 12 when these guys come back to school . . . I do reflect on that stuff, I do think 'what if,' but there are some valuable lessons in those games that will help us in the years to come. We have to find the positive and build."
SARK AGAIN: On Cody Kessler: "At some point people are going to recognize him . . . He has thrown 36 touchdowns and given up just four interceptions. Those are ridiculous numbers. At some point people will recognize it . . . At some point you can't ignore it.
HAYES PULLARD On the "win one for the seniors" theme: "It was a great feeling . . . Everyone was saying 'We did it for you' . . . But I really felt like we did it for us as a team . . . We got to get that bad taste out of our mouths and we keep getting better . . . Like Coach Sark said, this team has a great future."
DAMIEN MAMA On so many freshmen playing in the seniors' last game: "It was an honor as a freshman to be able to compete for them . . . we took it personal last week . . . we decided to have fun, to compete."
VIANE TALAMAIVAO: On playing alongside two other true freshman starters: "That was special . . . knowing what we've all gone through . . . we prepared ourselves really hard this week . . . tempo was a big thing for us."
TOA LOBENDAHN: On the difference this week compared to the UCLA game: "We went out and fought for ourselves . . . last week we didn't do that. This week I think we did."
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