USC vs. Notre Dame: 10 Things We Learned in Trojans' Loss
The USC Trojans came up short once again against their rivals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Neither team amounted to much of anything on offense as the Irish won 14-10.
We learned a lot about the Trojans throughout the game—some good, some bad. But overall, there's something to work with for USC to still have a successful season.
Here's a look at 10 things we learned from the Trojans in this game.
The Offense Has to Convert 3rd Downs
The Trojans were 2-of-13 on third downs. Both of those came on the first drive of the game. That's no way to win a close game.
USC had five 3rd-and-shorts during the game and couldn't convert any. The one they had late in the fourth quarter was thwarted by a false-start penalty that made it 3rd-and-8.
Third downs are the keys to holding on to the ball and putting points on the board. When you don't do that, you're going to struggle to score points.
It also forces you to resort to field goals that could be missed with a weak kicker.
Field Goals Won't Cut It
Andre Heidari disappointed the Trojans twice against the Irish. He missed field goals of 40 and 46 yards.
He does have a long of 52 this year, but he was also 1-of-3 between 40-49 yards entering the game.
If USC is going to do anything this year, it has to stop depending on Heidari. He's simply shown he can't get the job done.
The Trojans, on the other hand, have shown they can put up points with the offense, although they may need to use another quarterback to do so. That has to be the focus the rest of the way.
USC Has to Get Back to Fundamentals in Blocking
USC had three holding penalties in the second half on offense, hurting its chances to do anything.
You can't have that many holding penalties to halt drives or to put your team farther back to punt.
Too many times receivers and/or linemen were holding too long, and it cost the Trojans. It's definitely something USC needs to work on this week in practice.
Cody Kessler Won't Last Much Longer as the Starter
Nothing against Cody Kessler, but there needs to be a change made at quarterback for the Trojans.
Sure, he threw for 201 yards, but he was largely unimpressive under center. He took a sack on a 4th-and-15 when he had to get rid of the ball, he missed his receivers multiple times, and he couldn't throw past the first-down marker, instead opting to throw before or right at the sticks.
Max Wittek may not be the answer either, as the sanctions have really hurt the Trojans over the last few years.
Now, as USC gains its scholarships back, it has to return to getting the best high school quarterbacks in the nation. It's something that is expected out of the program.
The Defense Is Not the Problem
The Trojans may have given up 93 points over their last two games, but the defense wasn't the problem in this game.
It gave the offense multiple opportunities to put points on the board, but the offense failed to do so.
Put it this way: After the first drive of the game, Notre Dame's defense allowed minus-13 yards on third down the rest of the game as Notre Dame was 4-of-14 the entire game.
Speaking of third down...
Trojans Are Good at Getting to the Quarterback
The Trojans were good at getting to the quarterback, sacking Tommy Rees twice for 23 yards and knocking him out of the game.
The pressure they applied to the Notre Dame offensive line didn't allow for the Irish to get into a rhythm and consistently put USC in situations where it could win the game.
However, the offense wasn't able to take care of business, making all of the defense's work null and void. Still, it's something to build on for USC as it heads into next week.
Silas Redd Needs the Ball More
Silas Redd needs to get the ball more.
In two games back from injury this year, Redd has 38 rushes for 192 yards. He was the horse for the Trojans Saturday and needs to continue to be the horse moving forward.
Giving other guys the ball is all well and good, but none of them has the same abilities as Redd.
Last year, he rushed for 1,241 yards after transferring from Penn State. He's a proven workhorse, and with the struggles in the passing game, the Trojans need to go to him more.
Nelson Agholor Is a Legitimate No. 1-Type Receiver
Nelson Agholor has shown he is a No. 1-type receiver for the Trojans.
While Marqise Lee is the best receiver on the team—and perhaps the best in the country—it's been Agholor who has come up big all year.
He had another 89 yards on six catches Saturday to go along with the 161 yards he had last week against Arizona.
Agholor has shown he can get open, and Kessler needs to start looking his way more. That may take away a few targets from Lee, but if that's what it takes to get the offense going, then that's what it takes.
Ed Orgeron Won't Keep the Head Coach Job After the Season
Not that he was guaranteed to be the head coach next season, but this game showed Ed Orgeron is not the coach the Trojans need.
USC needs a coach who has some fire under him. It needs a coach who is going to light a fire under his players and get more out of them than they are giving.
There seemed to be no passion on the sidelines, although that could have been because the cameras didn't focus on him too much.
Still, USC needs a head coach who can outsmart his opponents with the talent he has on the roster. Orgeron is simply not that guy.
USC Might Finish the Season 6-7
When you look at the rest of USC's schedule, it doesn't look too favorable.
Utah and Oregon State are teams the Trojans will face in the next two weeks, and those are not guaranteed wins. Both teams have been good all year and will give USC fits if it can't fix the issues it has.
California and Colorado are the only wins I see left on the schedule. With the two other games being against UCLA and Stanford, USC is going to have to pull an upset just to be eligible for a bowl game.
It doesn't look good, but if the Trojans can make a few changes (mainly at quarterback) and get the offense going, they can upset someone and finish the season in the Las Vegas or New Mexico Bowl. That may not be exciting, but it's better than ending the year with a disappointing losing record for the first time since 2000.