USC report card: Grading the Trojans’ disaster in South Bend

USC was licking its wounds — and there were plenty — while traveling back to Los Angeles after being blown out 49-14 at Notre Dame on Saturday night.

While they’ll still have to mail the Jeweled Shillelagh to the Irish (according to the NBC broadcast), the Trojans will try to put this one behind them as quickly as possible.

We have grades to hand out for each group’s effort in the 35-point loss.

Offense: C-minus

A high snap resulted in a Sam Darnold fumble on USC’s first offensive play, and shortly thereafter, the Trojans were behind 7-0. Before they blinked, they were down 14-0, and much of what works for them offensively had to be tossed out, because it’s difficult to come back quickly by running the ball.

Even then, USC might have abandoned the run too early. Ronald Jones carried the ball 12 times for 32 yards. As a team, USC rushed 31 times for 76 yards, but 9 of those rushes were from Darnold (for 7 yards).

As for the passing game, Darnold was 20 of 28 for 229 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The pick was another risky throw that Darnold probably wishes he had back, thrown to a receiver running a flag route to the boundary before Darnold realized a corner in underneath coverage was drifting back toward the target.

The Trojans figured some things out after halftime, scoring on consecutive possessions with touchdown passes to Deontay Burnett (8 catches, 113 yards) and Steven Mitchell (7 catches, 71 yards). But by then, it was too late.

Defense: D-plus

Credit is due to the defense for forcing Notre Dame to punt 6 times. Not much else was credit worthy.

The Trojans couldn’t stop the run, allowing Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush and running back Josh Adams to run 33 times for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns. As a team, Notre Dame racked up 377 yards rushing.

Even when the Trojans figured some things out on offense, the defense didn’t do the same, as Notre Dame answered both USC touchdowns with TDs of its own.

Special teams: F

The lone time USC found itself deep in Notre Dame territory in the first half, the Trojans came away empty-handed after Chase McGrath’s 27-yard field goal attempt went wide right.

After the defense stopped the Irish on the ensuing possession, Jack Jones — newly inserted this week at returner — muffed a punt on USC’s 9. Notre Dame was in the end zone three plays later. The 10-point turnaround between possessions piled onto what was already an ugly first half for USC.

It doesn’t get much worse from a special-teams standpoint.

Coaching: D-plus

USC looked unprepared on the big stage. The defense couldn’t stop a run-first attack that most everyone knew was coming as soon as Wimbush was declared healthy and ready to play. The game was out of hand at halftime, but minor credit is due to the staff making adjustments that produced two Trojans touchdowns in the second half.

After the game, it was revealed Darnold has been playing through an ankle injury suffered in the loss to Washington State, which explains the quarterback’s struggles and also begs the question of why the staff waited until after a second loss to make such information public. Perhaps USC takes a more-cautious approach with Darnold in the coming weeks with its CFP chances vanquished.

The post USC report card: Grading the Trojans’ disaster in South Bend appeared first on Diehards.

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