Notre Dame defeated arch rival USC for the third time in four years on the strength of a phenomenal defensive effort. Starting quarterback Tommy Rees went down in the third quarter which was the end of any success the Irish offense had in the game as Andrew Hendrix looked horrendous. The Irish defense made up for the lack of success by the offense by shutting out the Trojans in the second half. The following players were key to the Irish getting their first win at home versus USC since 2001:
Stephon Tuitt: Notre Dame’s star defensive end broke out with his best game of the season versus the Trojans. Tuitt was an absolute force, particularly in the second half when he was nearly unstoppable. Tuitt had seven tackles, two sacks, and a pass breakup days after rumors began swirling regarding if he will stay at Notre Dame for his senior season. Tuitt certainly showed he is NFL ready though as the Trojans offensive line was no match for him physically.
Carlo Calabrese: Fifth year senior Carlo Calabrese had another strong game as he continues to show he is the leader of the Irish linebacking corps. Calabrese was the catalyst in the run defense as usual and had a team high eight tackles, including one for loss. Calabrese looked solid as a leader as the linebacking play was under the microscope after Jarrett Grace’s injury.
Jaylon Smith: Irish freshman Jaylon Smith continued to develop into the special player everyone expects him to be in the victory over USC. Smith had a beautiful interception, the first of his career, to go along with four tackles, including one for loss. Smith also was out of position much less than he has been in the past and continued to tackle well in space.
Tommy Rees: Prior to his injury Tommy Rees was playing a very solid game for the Irish. Rees was spreading the ball around nicely with six different receivers catching a pass. Rees went 14-21 for 166 yards and two touchdowns in his abbreviated effort. Most importantly Rees was also turnover free and made the right read most times.