Somewhere, Rock and Howard Jones smiled. This is what an epic, rivalry game look like. Legacy fulfilled. Offense, Defense, Special Teams, thrills, agony, expected stars and surprise heroes.
Football games are compartmentalized into four clock quarters. This one had four “emotional” quarters, measured not by Longines but by the peaks and valleys in the psyches of the Notre Dame fan.
1ST Q-HERE WE GO AGAIN!
“Starting Fast” was a prerequisite for Irish victory. Or not.
It was Troy who started fast, a Kessler bomb to Juju the cornerstone of an effortless Trojan drive. USC 7- ND O, only 3:07 elapsed.
2D Q-WE GOT THIS!
Could Notre Dame answer?
Is the Dome Golden?
Is Will Fuller fast?
Fuller burned past Adoree Jackson, and Kizer dropped it in the basket. 7-7.
After an SC field goal, Prosise keyed a powerful drive and the Irish were up 14-10.
A SPECIAL (TEAMS) MOMENT
Kelly, in the offseason, hired Pryce Tracy as special Teams intern to assist Scott Booker. On a fake field goal against Virginia for Kizer’s first and prescient TD pass, and on C.J. Sanders’ punt return against UMASS, the Irish already had two special teams touchdown.
After a quick three and out, Troy dropped back to punt. Equanimeous St. Brown charged up the middle and then launched like a giant praying mantis, swatting the ball away, Amir Carlisle picked it up and the Irish were up 21-10.
As the second quarter began,, the Irish drove to the South End Zone. (the barren end of the stadium , as the Irish notched all 5 TDS into the waiting arms of Touchdown Jesus in the North End Zone.)
Irish bodies leaned forward, as a 28-10 lead might break USC’s will. Torii Hunter Jr. reached for the goal line, but the talented Adoree Jackson batted it away for 11th hour clemency for the visitors.
3RD Q- “DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN”
It seemed like a bad sequel, of ’64, ’74, ’78 and ’05. It was anguishing. ANOTHER athletic, sadistic Trojan comeback.
The Irish for the 6th consecutive week had one of those two TD lapses. This one took about 3 minutes.
Helton, Kessler and Jalen Greene tricked the gullible Irish defenders and Juju scored a 75 yard touchdown on the pass from Greene.
Helton then hid Adoree Jackson in the slot, mismatched against Joe Schmidt and Jackson easily snaked through the Irish back line for another touchdown. It was not ND 28-SC 10. Instead, it was knotted at an uncomfortable 24-24.
After the Irish sputtered in the 3rd quarter, Ronald Jones long run, again victimizing Schmidt, keyed a Trojan TD dive and the Irish trailed 31-24.
4TH Q-REDEMPTION, CATHARSIS, MENTAL TOUGHNESS AND SLEEPERS AWAKENED
“The very moment I thought I was lost
the dungeon shook and the chains fell off
Keep your eyes on the prize
The Irish had shown steely mental toughness in the fourth quarters in Charlottesville and Clemson. Could they do it in the season’s biggest game?
COREY, KEIVARAE, MAX
The mantra had been “What’s wrong with Robinson? Why is Russell struggling? Will Redfield ever “get it.”
The Irish had moved to a nervous 31-31 tie with Prosise willing it in.
The Irish drove again, with a trick play on a pass from the absolved Torii Hunter Jr. to Alize Jones as the tipping point. Would a field goal be enough? Kizer and Robinson didn’t think so and Kizer made a good pass to Robinson who made a better catch, and the Irish were up 38-31. Just as against Florida State, night lights and a big stage never overwhelm Robinson. Au contraire.
48 seconds later, KeiVarae Russell made one of the greatest defensive plays in the history of Notre Dame stadium, an interception as dramatic as it was athletic.
Hope, suddenly, was alive.
The redoubtable Yoon made it a ten point lead at 41-31, but trauma synapses kept firing in the wounded memories of the Irish faithful.
Russell tipped it, Redfield snagged it and with just 5 minutes left the Irish had the ball back.
Notre Dame 41-31. Mst ND points against USC since 1977. The Fighting Irish are now 6-1. Brian Kelly is 4-2 against USC. He has more wins against USC than the great Ara Raoul. Kelly has more wins against USC than his three predecessors COMBINED.
- Is it not a tribute to Kizer that we measure him against the high standard of a Notre Dame quarterback rather than grading him on the curve as a raw, emergency substitute?
- How good will our special teams be down the stretch?
- Did light bulbs go on for Corey Robinson, KeiVarae Russell and Max Redfield?
- Who has a better pair of kickers than Tyler Newsome and Jutin Yoon?
A Saturday without a game, and the timing is perfect. Let the Irish savor this win for more than the mandated 24 hours, go home and take a break and return the 25th ready to go.
All schedules are different, but some are more different than others. While we play one AAC team and three ACC teams for the next four opponents, those four pre-Stanford trials offer some similarities.
They play defense well, at least according to the statistics, and they do not play offense very well, according to the statistics. All four are good field, no hit.
Going into the games of 10/17 the four opponents averaged a mere 27.7 points, while allowing a startlingly low 14.7 ppg. They were gaining 344 yards per game while allowing a startlingly low 260 yards per game.
While the late Berra, paraphrased, would have contended that good offense beats good defense and vice versa, it is hard to determine how these teams will fare against the Irish and vice versa. (Thanks Yog!)
Wake Forest, for example beat BC 3-0. Eyewitnesses contend that the first football game ever played between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869 featured offenses more explosive than those of the 2015 editions of Wake and BC.
There is a simple litmus test for measuring the Irish effectiveness in the next four games. In each game the standard ought be for Notre Dame for Notre Dame to blow through the ppg and ypg allowed by each opponent and to allow fewer ppg and ypg than the opponent previously aggregated.
First, Avery Sebastian will return and he should bolster the safety corps. He may be needed against Stanford. Second, the second half of the year is when frosh sometimes start to figure things out and they may be aided and abetted by the week off.
Josh Adams, Alize Jones, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tevon Coney, Jerry Tillery, Justin Yoon and Nick Coleman should be more productive than they were in the first 7 games. We shall see if form holds.
And the shockingly mature Kizer should be even better.
In case you missed it NOTRE DAME 41-31. Seems that Stanford beat USC 41-31. Interesting.
THE OTHER TEAMS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
As dawn broke on October 18th, the 91st anniversary of the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame there were 10 unbeaten teams in the Power Five:
Big 10-Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa
Big XII-Baylor, TCU and Ok State
ACC-Florida State and Clemson
There were 9 one loss teams in the Power Five
SEC-Bama, A&M Florida,
Pac XII-Stanford and Cal
ACC-Pitt, Duke and UNC
That is a total of 19. What’s intriguing is that the Irish will face 2 of those 22, Pitt and Stanford. But the list will dwindle, count on that. We will see who’s left standing when dawn breaks on Nov. 1st, All Saints Day.
Enjoy the Break.