USC hampered by penalties and poor time-management in loss to Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A week away was supposed to do USC good. Here was a chance to reset, to put their best foot forward and the past six weeks behind them. Maybe a week-long look in the mirror could jostle loose some new sense of hope heading into the season’s second half.
But as quarterback Kedon Slovis stared up at the clock in confusion, watching the last seconds of the first half tick inexcusably away while he and USC’s offense stood helpless near the red zone, unable to will it to stop, it was clear the week away had only served to numb the pain of what was soon to come.
What followed on a brisk night at Notre Dame was a performance both painfully familiar and equally bewildering for USC, a 31-16 loss at the hands of a bitter rival that would go down as its fourth double-digit defeat over seven games this season. As USC fell below .500 for the first time since its 2018 season, its many issues proved too profound to figure out over the course of a single off week.
If Saturday was any indication, it could be a while before USC (3-4) is able to do the Freudian-level digging necessary to understand what’s gone awry. Again, there were ill-fated penalties and poor time management. Again, there were issues up front on offense and issues at all levels on defense. Again, drives stalled in the red zone.
Disastrous possession thwarts any shot at USC rally
USC was celebrating after scoring back-to-back touchdowns and making it a one-possession game.
A few minutes later, Notre Dame showed why it had the lead the in the first place.
After Notre Dame scored, USC tried to mount a quick scoring drive. The Irish’s defense was dialed in and forced numerous mistakes. Kedon Slovis tried to scramble out of the pocket and lofted a late pass toward Drake London. He wasn’t in position to catch it and Slovis was hit with a penalty for throwing past the line of scrimmage.
That set up fourth and 22.
Slovis was quickly swarmed on the next snap and sacked. Notre Dame stripped the ball as he fell to the ground, emphatically closing out the game with 2:07 left on the clock.
The Irish burned the remaining time off the clock to seal the 31-16 win over the rival Trojans.
Notre Dame counters with big touchdown
Physical play got USC back into the game, but lack of discipline is thwarting the Trojans’ rally.
Two Trojans penalties — pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct — gifted the Irish 30 yards on a pivotal drive.
Quarterbacks Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner split snaps on the drive, with Buchner capping the eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown. With the extra point, Notre Dame took a 31-16 lead at the 4:52 mark in the fourth quarter.
USC gets huge interception and scores touchdown on ensuing drive
Notre Dame seemed poised to counter USC’s first touchdown with at least some points, converting for chunk gains.
But Jack Coan lofted a 50-50 pass and USC’s Chris Steele decided he was going to come down with it. Steele wrestled the ball away and pulled it to his chest as he hit the ground to flip the momentum.
Steele pulled in the ball at the USC 14-yard line the Trojans’ offense had some work to do to make the most of the gift.
A mix of Keaontay Ingram runs and Drake London catches helped set up Darwin Barlow’s 3-yard touchdown run. Parker Lewis missed the extra point, but it is still a one possession game.
The Irish continued to feel the absence of star defensive back Kyle Hamilton, who injured his knee in the first quarter, during the Trojans’ scoring drive.
Notre Dame leads USC 24-16 with 8:51 remaining.
USC scores its first touchdown
Keaontay Ingram continued to find seams in Notre Dame’s defense.
He has 20 carries for 123 yards and capped another long USC drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Parker Lewis hit the extra point to trim Notre Dame’s lead to 24-10 with 14:52 left in the game.
USC penalties helped Notre Dame score
USC’s defense helped Notre Dame mount a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that may have put a win out of reach for the Trojans.
Three penalties — pass interference, 12 men on the field and a late hit the quarterback — gave the Irish the lift they needed to score.
Kyren Williams closed out the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and the Irish converted the extra point.
Notre Dame leads USC 24-3 with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Notre Dame, USC trade stops
USC’s defense forced Notre Dame to go three-and-out on the Irish’s first possession of the second half, but the Trojans’ offense couldn’t build on the quick change of possession.
Kedon Slovis connected on a 21-yard pass to Tahj Washington, but two incomplete passes helped set up a punt on fourth down.
It’s still Notre Dame 17, USC 3 with 8:08 left in the third quarter.
USC still can’t get into end zone and misses a field goal
USC didn’t sort out all of its offensive problems at halftime.
The Trojans mounted another long drive that fell apart in the red zone.
It appeared a targeting call on an incomplete pass in the Notre Dame end zone might bail USC out, but the call was overturned after review.
Park Lewis missed a 42-yard field goal and the Trojans remained frustrated that bursts of big plays have yet to translate into points.
Notre Dame leads USC 17-3 with 11:40 left in the third quarter.
Promising USC drive thwarted by poor clock management
USC tried to set itself up for a score before halftime.
The Trojans worked to get into position for at least three points, burning a timeout and converting on fourth down.
On first-and-10 at the Notre Dame 31 with With 21 seconds left, Kedon Slovis scrambled for a gain of six yards. He motioned to clock the ball as if he thought he had enough time to run one more play, but time expired as he scrambled to get the USC offense set.
Worse yet for the Trojans, star receiver Drake London had a favorable matchup in the end zone and likely could have pulled in a pass thrown his way while Slovis ran for a first down.
USC interim coach Donte Williams was visibly frustrated on the sideline by the poor clock management that sent the Trojans into the break trailing the Irish 17-3.
The silver lining for USC is the Trojans will get the ball to start the third quarter.
Notre Dame counters with touchdown, extending its lead
Notre Dame stuck with Jack Coan for the next drive and he connected twice with Lorenzo Styles Jr. on long pass plays.
This time, USC had no answers in the red zone.
Kyren Williams rumbled for a 5-yard touchdown and Jonathan Doerer hit the extra point to extend the Irish’s lead to 17-3 with 4:13 let in the second quarter.
USC settles for a field goal, trims Notre Dame’s lead
Everyone knows Kedon Slovis is throwing the Drake London, but Notre Dame’s defense couldn’t completely shut down their connection.
Slovis hit London three times before the Trojans’ drive stalled. London has 103 yards on eight catches during the first half.
Parker Lewis hit a 33-yard field goal with 5:55 left the second quarter to trim Notre Dame’s lead to 10-3.
Kedon Slovis tosses interception; Trojans limit Irish to field goal
Kedon Slovis got a bit more time to open USC’s second possession of the game and found star receiver Drake London for three long passes that put the Trojans in the Notre Dame red zone as the first quarter ended.
Notre Dame All-American defensive back Kyle Hamilton suffered an apparent knee injury while contesting a sideline pass, a major blow for the Irish defense.
On the first play of the second quarter, a Slovis pass was intercepted by Bo Bauer and returned 79 yards to the USC 4-yard line.
The Trojans’ defense dug in and limited Notre Dame to a 21-yard field goal, giving Notre Dame a 10-0 lead with 13:24 left in the second quarter.
Irish rotate two quarterbacks, earn their first touchdown
Notre Dame continued to push the tempo on offense, successfully rotating starter Jack Coan and backup Tyler Buchner to challenge the USC defense.
Coan closed an 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Avery Davis. Jonathan Doerer hit the extra point to give Notre Dame a 7-0 lead 4:09 left in the first quarter.
USC wilts under Notre Dame’s pressure, goes three-and-out
Hello, Notre Dame defense.
The Irish immediately announced they were ready for this game, swarming and sacking Kedon Slovis during USC’s first snap. The next few didn’t go much better.
USC went three-and-out, handing the ball back to Notre Dame with the score still 0-0.
USC defense slows Notre Dame offense; Irish miss a field goal
USC’s defense found its footing as Notre Dame marched toward the Trojans’ red zone.
Jack Coan’s pass to Kevin Austin Jr. on third-and-four was incomplete.
Jonathan Doerer missed a 36-yard field goal with 10:25 left in the first quarter and the score remains 0-0.
USC kicks off and Notre Dame immediately hits the gas
USC kicked off to open its game against No. 13 Notre Dame in frosty South Bend, Ind.
The Irish immediately pushed tempo on its drive, with no signs they have struggled with stability at quarterback this season.
Jack Coan started 4-of-7 passing on the drive and has Notre Dame rolling into USC territory.
Can USC quarterback Kedon Slovis keep his job with a victory over Notre Dame?
A fired coach. A .500 record. A trio of humbling losses at home. It’s safe to say the first half of USC’s season didn’t exactly go as planned.
The same could be said for Notre Dame, albeit with much less catastrophic results. The 13th-ranked Irish are 5-1, with their loss coming against No. 2 Cincinnati. But the first half of its own season was hardly a smooth ride, with three wins of three points or fewer.
A bye last week offered both bitter rivals a much-needed reset. But as USC embarks on the second half of its season with a trip to South Bend, Ind., it’s not going to get any easier. The Trojans enter the game as seven-point underdogs, in desperate need of a bounce-back performance.
Could we see a different team emerge after the bye week? It’s possible. But it’s been a decade since USC won at Notre Dame. A difficult task lies ahead as USC kicks off against its rival at 4:30 p.m. on NBC.
USC vs. Notre Dame: College football betting odds, lines and analysis
Those who have watched USC closely might be surprised that Notre Dame is only favored by a touchdown here, but the Fighting Irish have three of their five victories by just a field goal each over Florida State, Toledo and Virginia Tech. This isn’t the same Notre Dame team that we’re used to seeing. Of course, neither are the Trojans.
USC at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-7, 57 1/2)
Kedon Slovis is set to start at quarterback for USC with Jaxson Dart‘s status for the game undetermined as he continues to recover from meniscus surgery. There are more questions for Notre Dame, but Jack Coan is the answer, at least for the first snap.
Competing for a starting role as a freshman? USC’s Jaxson Dart has done it before
It was still a few months from the start of his freshman year at Roy High School in Utah, when Dart joined his new team for the first time at a 7-on-7 tournament. He hadn’t met his teammates. He didn’t know the offense. Plus, he was already late upon arrival, having missed the first few tournaments of the summer schedule to play baseball.
The circumstances didn’t bode well for the scrawny freshman even before considering the 6-foot-3 senior transfer he was set to compete against. But as Dart laced passes around the field that first day, flashing the rocket right arm that would eventually lead him to USC, it didn’t take much convincing for Fred Fernandes. The Roy High coach could sense then, as every other coach since would learn, that competition could unlock another level in Dart — and, by extension, everyone else around him.
For a while, Fernandes still kept up the façade of a quarterback battle. But before the first tournament was over, he approached Dart’s father, Brandon. “I can already tell he’s going to be our guy,” he told him.
“It really wasn’t close in anyone’s eyes,” Fernandes recalls now. “Except maybe the other quarterback.”
Four years later, during a dynamic, rain-soaked afternoon in Pullman, Wash., last month, a similar sentiment would seep into the sideline at USC, where the Trojans, fresh off firing their coach, desperately needed a spark. They got more than they could’ve hoped for in Dart, who stepped in for an aching Kedon Slovis and came alive, hobbling his way to 391 passing yards and four touchdowns even after he’d injured his knee. The performance proved so extraordinary that interim coach Donte Williams would declare an open competition in its immediate aftermath.
Where does the USC job rank nationally? Experts weigh in on the Trojans’ search
For a month after the firing of Clay Helton, the USC head coaching vacancy owned the conversation across college football. But hopefully athletic director Mike Bohn and Trojans fans didn’t get too comfortable hogging the attention — because now they’ve got competition. The serious kind.
Sunday, Louisiana State and Ed Orgeron, just two years removed from a magical march to a national championship, signed a separation agreement. Baton Rouge needs a new king, and it’s possible LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, known for swinging for the fences with hires, could be looking at some of the same candidates as USC.
In preparation for LSU coming open — I certainly did not expect it would happen after the Tigers beat rival Florida on Saturday — I spent last week assembling an informal panel of former coaches who have connections to Los Angeles and the West Coast to discuss the USC job, how it’s being viewed within the industry this time around, and the pluses and minuses of the position when compared to LSU and other coveted spots.
Without further ado, the panel: Rick Neuheisel, the former UCLA, Washington and Colorado coach who lives in L.A.; Jim Mora, the former UCLA coach who grew up in L.A. rooting for USC; Dave Wannstedt, the former Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins and Pitt head coach who was an assistant at USC in the 1980s; and Mike Stoops, the former Arizona coach.