In: USC Instant Reaction

Notre Dame is in the College Football Playoff after defeating rival USC 24-17. As inspiring as it was to see the Trojans play a terrific first half and make the Irish sweat a bit in the second, a no-show job like the UCLA game the week before would’ve been ok. In any case, 12-0 has been achieved. Who’d have dreamed it possible 3 months ago?
Even more so than usual, this game seemed to hinge on a couple of little moments. The image in particular of Ian Book lowering his shoulder – and driving his way to a first down that finally awoke the Irish in the second quarter – will be burned into any Irishman’s brain for a while.
Let’s talk about some of the key subplots of the game.

Please stay forever, Chip and Clark

We’ve spent much of the last two years and in particular this year talking about how lucky ND is to have Chip Long and Clark Lea (previously Mike Elko) as their coordinators. Saturday might have been exhibit A.
The Irish were clearly caught off guard by USC’s decision to turn JT Daniels into an ultra-distributor to start the game, and Daniels was terrific early as he fired short lasers to open receivers on the edge. And SC’s defense shut down the Irish offense most of the half as well. Then halftime hit, and ND’s coordinators went to work.
After halftime, SC did basically nothing on offense until the Irish held a two-possession lead (under 200 yards of offense in the second half), despite not getting the same kind of pass rush they normally do. Lea pushed all the right buttons and put his guys into the positions they needed to be in. (Thought I’m too chicken to totally explore for fear of the reverse jinx: What if Lea was really the genius in the Elko tree all along?)
And when ND had the ball, Long played the Trojan defense like a fiddle, using misdirection and quick passing to turn the USC rush against them. Dexter Williams’ long TD run that put the Irish ahead for good should be put in a museum of offensive coordinating. Just beautiful. And when Long sensed that the Trojans couldn’t figure out how to stop the running back out routes, he called on them when absolutely necessary, capped by Tony Jones’ game-clinching touchdown.
These guys will both get head coaching jobs eventually. They’ve both been so, so great, and we should enjoy their work while we’re lucky enough that they’re Irish.

Even when Book is bad, he’s really not

This game might have been Ian Book’s worst at Notre Dame. His completion percentage wasn’t nearly as high as usual. He missed a few throws. His interception on a drive that could have all but clinched the game was reprehensibly bad. And yet, you look up at the end, and he threw for 352 yards on nine yards per pass attempt, including the backbreaking touchdown to Tony Jones. He made two massive (repeat, massive) runs that led to scores. Even at his worst, Book made the plays he needed to and helped the Irish to victory.
There will be a lot of discussion in the next month about how ND matches up with (presumably) Clemson and whether this playoff game will end up like the Alabama beatdown of six years ago. If any pundit that brings it up doesn’t lead with the difference at QB for Notre Dame from that season, they should be shot into the sun. Book is never going to win a Heisman. But he’s a rock and the biggest (player) reason the Irish are where they are.

Dex

Can I just take a second? I’ve said all year that Dexter Williams’ ascendance has been my favorite subplot of the season. And today he played the Theo Riddick role. He didn’t have a bunch of ridiculous, ‘making guys miss in a phone booth’ type of runs, but the dude ran tough. He went for 151 total yards, including two huge catches on the running back out route that USC never did figure out how to stop. By the end of the game, Williams’ jersey was possibly the dirtiest on the field.
The man is a complete back. He’s everything you want your running back to be. I doubt there are more than a few players in the country that have jacked their future prospects up over the last 3 months than Dexter Williams. This offense has been different since he took the reins at running back.

Guts

Look, you won’t hear anyone say this game was a beauty contest. In the micro view, it’s too bad ND gave the legions of people talking about one-loss teams jumping them (there is literally no other Power 5 team that would ever deal with such conversations) some more ammunition to play with. And I’m aware talking about the travel schedule looks like an excuse. But consider: The Irish played five games in San Diego, Chicago, South Bend, New York and Los Angeles in five consecutive weeks. And it took until the fifth one for them to have anything really close to a struggle.
I don’t want to entirely minimize USC’s role in the way today went, because their plan was pretty good until the Irish caught up to it. But I also think it would be silly to completely write off the possibility that the miles ND has logged over the last month didn’t have any effect at all on them. These guys have guts. They’re tough.
The vibe is a little different this time; these 12-0 Irish trailed exactly once in the fourth quarter, and trailed in only three games at all. (Unless I’m forgetting something, they weren’t tied in any fourth quarters either.) They have yet to surrender a lead, once they had it, all year. They’ve gotten the job done when called upon, over and over again, and they deserve every bit of credit they’ve gotten (and probably more LOOKING AT YOU ESPN PUNDITS) for it.

Remember: We’re in

Soak it in. It’s a beautiful thing. The Irish are in. There’s no stopping it. What the future holds, who knows. But remember this feeling. It’s great to be Irish tonight.
(Photo credit: USA Today)
By |2018-11-25T00:28:26+00:00November 25th, 2018|Football|27 Comments

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Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Irish are in. It is right and just.

Eric Murtaugh

We in.

TimsSon
TimsSon

This. All this!

-These words. They’re music. No better argument for being IN than these words: “these 12-0 Irish trailed exactly once in the fourth quarter, and trailed in only three games at all. (Unless I’m forgetting something, they weren’t tied in any fourth quarters either.) They have yet to surrender a lead, once they had it, all year.”

-Trojans came to play. Good plan, good execution to start. Book starts slow, but Kelly mentioned that this year once a team flusters him, they talk about it, Book then sees it, and goes out and executes the answer. This is my favorite part of this young man (and his craxy accuracy, and the stone cold end of game play, and the toughness for first downs, and…)

-Dexter totally makes it all go, just as much as book, for sure. That run. If he doesn’t miss those first four games, I think he takes a serious crack at Tony Brooks this year. Also, I know some hate on Denson’s recruiting or whatever (where the four and five star guys, I think it goes), but he is doing a crazy good job developing. He is my favorite ND player. and all these guys he develops just like him (CJ, Josh, Dexter, Jafar, Tony) as solid guys who hold on to the ball and can catch, he just never had quite the speed of most.

-Just so happy to see a 12-0 again. Also, Kelly man. 3 undefeated regular seasons in 10 years for the guy. Who else besides Saban, Dabo, and Meyer have done that? The guy’s had an up and down ND career, but that’s just great. Tonight’s win also puts him at his longest ND winning streak, 13, no?

MikeyB
MikeyB

So who deserves to be fired first: Clay Helton or Desmond Howard?

Cubfansince1957
Cubfansince1957

Yes, we are in. The only issue is whether, in the final rankings after the conference championships, do they drop us to no. 4? I don’t think so, but you never know.

And don’t give ESPN too hard of a time tonight. They are giving us our props. This is what their article on the game tonight says (though admittedly, it’s the AP article):

“The Irish showed resilience throughout their cross-country odyssey of a season, and narrowly beating an inspired USC squad is nothing about which to be ashamed.”

And one last point that we should never forget: WE BEAT USC AGAIN TONIGHT! This is never a bad thing, regardless of playoff positioning or whatever. For another year, we can bask in the glory that is ND beating Southern Cal.

Mr. Wednesday
Mr. Wednesday

I watched a bit of MS-MSST on Friday, and the ESPN announcers in that game were gushing about ND’s performance against Syracuse (noting the comparison with how Clemson played against the same team).

tlndma
tlndma

Jesse Palmer gave ND their due on CFBF last night too.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I don’t think there’s any way we get pushed to 4. Who can do it? Ohio State would be giving Northwestern its 5th loss, and Oklahoma would be giving Texas its 4th. Ohio State’s best win is Michigan – i.e., ours – and we didn’t get beclowned at any point this season.

The most interesting possibility is what happens if both Clemson and Alabama lose. Extremely improbable, I realize. But, if it happens, we would likely find ourselves playing either Ohio State or Oklahoma (winnable games!), and it’s possible that both Clemson and Alabama would both be left out.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Weird downvote.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

I wasnt the original downvote but I’m downvoting your complaining.

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

Matt Balis got the game ball, very well deserved IMHO.

8FP
8FP

I started out wanting to see a bloodbath, but in retrospect I think the closeness of this game actually sheds a positive light on ND. I’ve never seen a better example of the notion that teams get fired up and bring their A game against ND, and the team answered the bell once again when it got serious.

I hope we can hang on to Long and Lea for a while. Lea, at least, would probably be wise to cut his teeth for a while longer as a DC.

The two things that stuck out to me as mistakes in this game was the very soft, backed off approach from the defense early on, when we probably should have been trying to get into Daniels’ head, and too many attempts to make big plays on offense. So many failed attempts to get it to Boykin 30 yards downfield when we should have just been trying to stay on schedule and set up more manageable 2nd and 3rd downs.

tlndma
tlndma

Yes, we probably should have stayed away from Imman Marshall (8). Maybe the coverage dictated those throws but that kid is really good.

8FP
8FP

Also, did we have some depth issues at corner? By my count there were three critical plays where Tariq Bracy was in and made some costly mistake. By the third time I’m wondering why this struggling true freshman is still on the field.

Orlok
Orlok

Was on a plane without WiFi for the entire game. First thing I did when I got off was to check the score, but as I turned my phone on, it flooded with messages of “We won!”. Great way to start vacation.

tlndma
tlndma

What a fun team to watch. So many players that just play their asses off. They don’t panic, they just keep playing hard.
Five weeks to get better and they’re going to have to be better to beat their next opponent…GO IRISH!!

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I was on campus for the middle of the Bad Decade against USC (2005 to 2008 games), so any time we beat USC, it feels amazing. But beating USC to get into the playoff? Fan-freaking-tastic.

Hopefully we can lock up Long, Lea, and Balis over the course of the next month. Now is not the time to cheap out on that.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Attended the losingest 4 years in ND history. Getting to be there yesterday, hearing the road crowd belting out “let’s go Irish,” certainly helped to make up for those 4 awful years.

jkra0512
jkra0512

So THIS is where Murtaugh and Burger went… It’s been like 10 years, probably don’t remember me, but I was bummed when you left that other site that shall not be named.

Consider this site bookmarked! Glad to read you guys again!

Eric Murtaugh

Hell of a time to come back and find us! Welcome back!

jkra0512
jkra0512

I follow you and burger on Twitter (don’t frequent that much anymore) and for whatever reason clicked on burger’s name to see what he had been up to. And by golly this site was in his profile. This reunion is right up there with NDs undefeated regular season! So pumped!!

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Of course we remember jkra. Welcome brother! Tell your friends.

jkra0512
jkra0512

Mouth!!! Man, it’s been a long time, my friend. Always enjoyed reading your comments, even when you destroyed me with logic. Glad to see you guys again.

I don’t have many friends, but I will tell the three of them!

dpet
dpet

We’re in baby!

Dan Zibton

Wooooo! That is all.

GoldenIsThyFame
GoldenIsThyFame

Wowwwww USC is retaining Helton. That might be the biggest upset this whole season.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

This is just so cool. They need to get a lot better if they want to beat Clemson or Bama though. Much, much better.