Notre Dame football came up short against USC to finish their regular season 8-4 overall; here are the three main takeaways from their loss.
Notre Dame football fought hard but came up short in some areas that, caused them to be defeated 38-27 by rival Southern California. The Heisman frontrunner Caleb Williams proved too much for Notre Dame’s defensive front to handle in the loss. However, while the Irish were missing a couple of cornerbacks in Cam Hart and Tariq Bracy, they weren’t hurt through the air as much as you’d expect from Williams and USC.
Notre Dame football: Tackling woes
In a hyperbolic tweet taken too literally, I stated the Notre Dame defense played the worst I’ve seen in its history. Obviously, that was an exaggeration. What may not be, though, is if I changed defense to tackling. It was a struggle all night to bring down players, and I’m not just talking about Caleb Williams. While he was highly elusive to our defensive line, the linebackers had quite a few misses at the point-of-attack against USC RB Austin Jones.
Isaiah Foskey, Jayson Ademilola, and Justin Ademilola combined for 14 tackles, including 2 sacks. The next closest defensive lineman on the team in tackles was Howard Cross, with 2 total. It’s great when your top guys show up, but they needed a bit more from the remaining front, as they relied too much on the guys in the second level of defense.
Notre Dame football: Offense with an uneven performance
The offense had been carried much of the year by the outstanding running back group that Notre Dame has. They’re still the best in the country, but they couldn’t get much going at the point of attack against USC. The available holes were found and made the most of almost all night. Taking away Mitchell Evans and Drew Pyne’s attempts and the running backs finished with 20 carries for 101 yards. Pretty solid overall. Where the offense really impressed was through the air and the arm of Drew Pyne outside of one massive mistake late in the game.
Pyne was 23 of 26 passing for 318 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception. He massively outplayed Williams through the air but was outplayed on the ground and in the turnover margin. The only negative for Pyne, which is a big one, is that he killed two promising drives with unforced turnovers. Pyne fumbled on the opening drive of the 2nd half and threw a pretty bad interception late in the game down 10. This outcome is different if the Irish win the turnover battle.
Notre Dame football: Michael Mayer finishes strong career
Ending on a positive note, Michael Mayer once again did Michael Mayer things against USC’s defense. Catching 8 receptions for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, he cemented his claim as the best tight end in college football. While it remains to be seen what he does for the bowl game that Notre Dame attends this year, could fans really be mad if he sits? If you ask me, it’s a no-brainer, especially in a year when Notre Dame plays for nothing of significance besides pride.
Notre Dame had a bumpy season in Marcus Freeman’s first year as head coach, but the team’s potential is still sky-high. They have a lot of talent already established and are bringing in a very talented group to add to that. We’ll look back on it all in the coming weeks, but for now, Notre Dame finishes their regular season at 8-4. Go, Irish.