Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 OCT. 23, 2017 35 BY BRYAN DRISKELL USC RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE The Trojans' ground attack has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde this season. They averaged 269.5 in their first two games, including an impressive 307 yards in the 42-24 win over Stanford Sept. 9. Over the next three weeks, though, USC man- aged just 122.3 yards per contest. The Trojans had only 71 yards (1.9 per rush) in their 27-24 overtime win over Texas Sept. 16, and averaged a mere 3.5 yards per attempt (133 yards) a week later against a California team that ranked 88th nationally in rush defense. Even USC's 163-yard performance in the 30-27 road loss to Washington State Sept. 29 was mis- leading, because more than half of that total came on an 86-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones. On the other 28 attempts, the Trojans totaled just 77 yards. The Trojans picked off a Washington State pass to begin a series at the Cougar 3-yard line. Needing just three yards to get six points, USC was stuffed on a pair of runs, forcing a field goal attempt. To make matters worse, USC lost starting right tackle Chuma Edoga and right guard Viane Ta- lamaivao in the loss to Washington State. Edoga was set to miss the Oregon State matchup, but is poised to return by the time the Trojans come to South Bend Oct. 21. Talamaivao — a senior with 37 career starts — is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Notre Dame has not exactly shut teams down with its ground defense, but it is vastly improved over the previous three seasons, which happened to be the worst three-year stretch of run defense in program history. The Irish gave up 144.2 yards per game on the ground through the first five weeks, which ranked 64th in the country, while its 3.81 yards allowed per rush was 57th. Notre Dame has been good in the red zone this season, ranking 42nd in the country through five games. Only seven of the opponent's 18 red zone trips have ended with a touchdown (38.9 percent), and Notre Dame yielding one rushing touchdown through five games was the prime reason for that success. Advantage: Notre Dame USC PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Moving the ball through the air might be USC's single greatest strength. Redshirt sophomore quar- terback Sam Darnold averaged 277.8 yards per GAME PREVIEW: USC On PaPer Junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett hauled in 39 receptions for 507 yards and five touchdowns during USC's 4-1 start. PHOTO BY JOHN MCGILLEN/USC ATHLETICS

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