Grading the Trojans – Notre Dame Game

SCPlaybook's Kevin Carden grades the Trojan performance in the meeting at South Bend between the USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Grading the Trojans – Notre Dame Game

Quarterback: A

In his first road game as a starter all Mark Sanchez did was throw four touchdown passes to four different receivers. "We've got the talent to give the ball to guys and let them do whatever they want with it. So that's what we did," said Sanchez.

The redshirt sophomore is really making a push to be the Trojans full-time starting quarterback. Sanchez improved in all statistical categories from last week, which is a very encouraging sign.

On the day Sanchez completed 21 of 28 passes for 235 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Running Backs: B+

The Trojans had a lot of success running against the Notre Dame defense. Joe McKnight, Chauncey Washington, Stafon Johnson and Stanley Havili all rushed for over 30 yards.

Joe McKnight led the Trojans with 68 rushing yards on 7 carries including a 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Allen Bradford and Stanley Havili also add touchdown receptions.

With the emergence of Joe McKnight and the return of Stafon Johnson, the USC running game is back on track heading into a tough match up against Pac-10 foe Oregon.

Wide Receivers: B-

The USC wide receivers had one of their better performances of the season led by sophomore Vidal Hazelton. Hazelton had the play of the game, weaving his way over and around the entire Notre Dame secondary on route to a 48-yard touchdown.

"He's been very creative on the practice field, but that was just a sick play," Pete Carroll said. "I mean, he did every move you've ever heard of, spin, run over guys, cut back, cut back again, cut back again. I can't wait to see it on the highlights film."

Hazleton led the team with 80 receiving yards. Patrick Tuner led the team with 4 catches and David Ausberry added 3.

The receivers look to be slowly improving but they need to step their game up this week against Oregon.

Tight End: B+

USC tight end Fred Davis had his usual spectacular performance. Davis pulled in a one-handed 10-yard TD reception in the first quarter to get the Trojans on the board. If there is a better tight end in the country I have yet to see him.

Davis had a team-high 5 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Offensive Line: B+

The Trojans came into the Notre Dame game limited by several injuries on the offensive line. But that didn't stop them from totally controlling the line of scrimmage. The Trojans had 227 rushing yards against the Irish.

Matt Spanos, Jeff Byers, Alatini Malu, Butch Lewis and Drew Radovich started for USC and all had terrific games.

The USC offensive line will get a major boost this week with the return of Sam Baker, Chilo Rachal, Thomas Herring and possibly Kristofer O'Dowd.

Defense Line: A

The Trojans defensive line overpowered the young Notre Dame offensive line all game. Sedrick Ellis continues to look like the best defensive tackle in the nation. Ellis had 5 tackles and 1.5 sacks including a hit that Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley won't soon forget.

The Trojans had consistent pressure on Sharpley all game, recording 5 sacks. Alex Morrow and Kyle Moore also had quarterback sacks.

USC limited the Irish to just 48 rushing yard on 30 attempts.

Linebackers: A

Brian Cushing returned this week and with his return the Trojans finally had all of their talented linebackers available. The great depth of the linebacker unit was on display Saturday against Notre Dame.

Reserve linebacker Luthur Brown saw significant action for the second straight week and led the team with 6 tackles.

Kaluka Maiva had 5 tackles and Rey Maualuga played with a hip pointer and led the team with 2 sacks.

Thomas Williams, Keith Rivers and Clay Mathews also saw action for the Trojans.

Secondary: A

Much like the linebackers and offensive line, the secondary has been plagued by injuries all year. On Saturday the Trojans had a healthy secondary and it showed. The Trojans limited the Irish to 117 yards passing and made several big plays.

Safety Kevin Ellison continues to quietly have an outstanding year for the Trojans. Ellison had 5 tackles, a tackle for loss, 2 pass break ups and an interception.

Coaching: B+

The Trojans were dominant in every phase of the game Saturday and that included coaching. With the Trojans convincing 38-0 win, Pete Carroll is now a perfect 3-0 against Charlie Weis.

The Trojans still have areas that need attention if they are going to make it to a BCS bowl game. The 8 penalties is an area that needs to get cleaned up.

The Trojans are also going to have to get a better start on offense if they want to keep up with the high-powered Oregon Ducks.

Overall the Trojans went into South Bend and totally dismantled a very bad Notre Dame team. The Trojans appear to be coming together at just the right time.


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