Contact Form

    News Details

    USC-Notre Dame takeaways: Lincoln Riley says team has to ignore the noise
    • October 15, 2023

    First, it was a comment on the “trained eye” after the Colorado game, the phrase that’s become a popular arrow in the quiver of a public looking to take aim at USC.

    Then, it was the assertion that “a lot of people in the media had their mind made up” about the Trojans’ defense, an emotive speech Tuesday from the Trojans’ head coach digging his heels in and defending his group after a pair of rough performances.

    Then, after a 48-20 loss to Notre Dame Saturday night, it was remarks that the concept of a few plays going their way and razor-thin margins were “difficult to understand on the outside.”

    It’s become abundantly clear, with public optimism over this USC football team this season dwindling, that Lincoln Riley’s mentality is simple: us-vs-them.

    “The most important thing for this locker room right now,” Riley said postgame Saturday, in a fairly strong display of passion, “is going to be ignoring all the outside noise.”

    The head coach took responsibility Saturday, saying, “We gotta do a better job,” but also stood on business, holding onto the same star-reaching optimism in the face of clearly growing challenges.

    “We have to coach and play better. But is it in our power? Is it something we’re capable of? I believe it, to my core, and we’re going to go fight our (butt) off to get it done,” Riley finished his press conference Saturday night.

    They have to get it done, as Riley said himself, quickly. Hopes for a College Football Playoff dangle from a cliff, four out of USC’s next five games coming against top-25 opponents.

    Takeaways from USC-Notre Dame on Saturday night, as USC’s sense of urgency heightens:

    Caleb Williams can’t dance forever behind this line

    Normally, center Justin Dedich said in late September, the first time USC’s offensive line truly sees one of Caleb Williams’ escape-from-a-laser-maze scramble strokes of brilliance is via Twitter highlights postgame.

    “You’ll see the top video is him doing a runaround,” Dedich said, “and just, ‘Hey, that was me blocking for him.’”

    The majority of Twitter replays from Saturday night, though, were Williams trying to dodge pressure and firing a pass into the hands of a Notre Dame defender. He threw three interceptions in the worst game of his collegiate career, without a doubt, and admitted postgame he forced a couple balls – but constantly under siege from Notre Dame blitzes, Saturday night made one thing perfectly clear.

    Williams’ ability to create something from nothing only goes so far against elite defenses. And USC’s offensive line creates nothing far too often.

    In addition to six sacks, the Trojans surrendered 12 pressures on Saturday night, according to Pro Football Focus. And across seven games, an offensive line that was praised preseason for its improved depth has been largely mediocre. Left tackle Jonah Monheim is a bright spot, runs to his right-side gap resulting in 10.9 yards per carry this year; but guard transfers Emmanuel Pregnon and Jarrett Kingston have been inconsistent in pass protection, Dedich has struggled with penalties, and Florida import Michael Tarquin continues to lose right-tackle snaps to backup Mason Murphy.

    USC’s wideouts struggle

    After Riley mentioned USC’s receivers were a “tick off” against Arizona, they were blanketed by Notre Dame corners on Saturday. Michael Jackson III had six catches, Mario Williams five and Tahj Washington four, but for a collective average yardage of 8 yards. Williams’ longest pass on the night went for 21.

    Brenden Rice – who now has eight touchdowns in seven games – has often asserted himself as Williams’ go-to vertical target, and Washington has had his moments. But at times against Notre Dame, it looked as if USC had too many guys who could gain separation on a comeback or a slant but not find an ounce of room on go-routes or deep posts.

    Defense steps up

    “There are a lot of good things happening on this defense, man,” Riley said Tuesday.

    But after six games as one of the worst-performing defenses in the FBS in terms of yardage allowed, Alex Grinch’s unit made Riley look good on Saturday – a final 48-point Notre Dame tally hardly their fault. On drives where the Fighting Irish didn’t assume possession off a turnover, USC allowed exactly 10 points.

    Glaring issues with tackling and pass coverage looked much-improved, the Trojans missing just two tackles in consistently wrapping up in one-on-one situations, freshman linebacker Tackett Curtis rewarding coaches’ trust with a seven-tackle game. Cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace, too, played a near-perfect game of football, with three pass breakups against three targets.

    Related Articles

    College Sports |

    Caleb Williams and USC hit a wall in blowout loss to Notre Dame

    College Sports |

    USC-Notre Dame notebook: Zachariah Branch makes an energetic return

    College Sports |

    Caleb Williams, USC football live updates vs. Notre Dame

    College Sports |

    No. 10 USC takes on No. 21 Notre Dame and something’s got to give

    College Sports |

    No. 10 USC at No. 21 Notre Dame: Who has the edge?

    ​ Orange County Register