Notre Dame defeated USC, 22-13, in the Coliseum on Saturday night. Despite coming out with the victory to cap off an undefeated season, Notre Dame did not play their best game. They have several things to work on if they want to win the National Title.
Red Zone Offense
Notre Dame kicked six field goals on Saturday night, making five of them. The Fighting Irish could have put this game far out of reach but failed to do so. Notre Dame ranks 78th in Red Zone conversions. But, Notre Dame actually only scores a touchdown 46.55% of the time. This percentage ranks the Irish 118th in the nation. In this game, the Offense had a touchdown percentage in the USC game was 16.67%. If the Fighting Irish want to beat the SEC champion, they will need to improve these percentages. What is the issue: play calling or execution? Brian Kelly has been fairly masterful at calling a good game so far this season. The Offense has been coming along all season. It is finally getting to the point where it can be extremely successful. But, they must execute better in the Red Zone.
Cierre Wood’s Homecoming
In perhaps his last regular season game in a Notre Dame uniform, Cierre Wood failed to help Theo Riddick carry the load. Wood has been very consistent throughout the season. In each game, he has averaged over 5 yards per carry. This was not the case in this game. Wood carried the ball 8 times for 20 yards. Wood is Notre Dame’s most complete Running Back. He will be needed in the National Title game. Performance’s like this cannot be tolerated.
Throughout the season, Notre Dame has been able to get pressure on the Quarterback. The Fighting Irish failed to do so on Saturday night. They only sacked the Quarterback twice. One was on the last play of the game. Despite the fact that the Irish got to Wittek twice, Notre Dame did not get consistent pressure on the Quarterback. This could not have been the game plan. It was interesting that the Fighting Irish were unable to get pressure against a much maligned Trojan front.
It is difficult to point out negatives from a 12-0 that just wins. They are not perfect and they are not always pretty but they always get the job done. The Irish do not have have many flaws but could improve in many areas. Red Zone execution is a huge category. If Notre Dame does not score touchdowns, they will not beat the SEC champion. For example, if Notre Dame scored touchdowns on every possession in the Red Zone, the Irish would have won 42-13. Instead, Notre Dame only came away with 1 touchdown in the Red Zone. Notre Dame has the potential to beat Georgia or Alabama but they will need to play their best game.