Notre Dame vs. USC score, takeaway: Trojans cruise No. 6 as Caleb Williams steals the show from Heisman

On a day when highly ranked teams like No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Clemson suffered upset losses on their home turf, No. 6 USC avoided a similar fate and kept their football playoff hopes alive. university with a 38-27 victory over No. 15 Notre-Dame. Caleb Williams marked the victory for the Trojans with a performance that included several scoring plays and four total touchdowns as the sophomore quarterback argued for the Heisman Trophy against a quality Irish defense.

Senior running back Austin Jones was also a big contributor when he passed the 100-yard mark in his second game as the Trojans returned from a season-ending injury to star guard Travis Dye. Defensively, the Trojans gave up a few big plays in the passing game, but bottled Notre Dame’s strong rushing offense and made a few clutch plays.

The Fighting Irish forced a punt and took possession just 31-21 with 6:03 remaining, but USC defensive back Calen Bullock jumped in front of a pass from Drew Pyne intended for the tight end of Notre Dame Michael Mayer and had an interception with 4:56 remaining. Facing a fourth-and-2 on subsequent possession, Williams held the ball for a 16-yard touchdown run to win the game.

USC now enters next week’s Pac-12 Championship game with an 11-1 record under freshman coach Lincoln Riley. Notre Dame, meanwhile, finishes its first regular season under coach Marcus Freeman at 8-4.

Caleb Williams steals the show

A quick look at the box score is an ineffective way to gauge Williams’ performance against the Fighting Irish. His 232 passing yards marked his third-lowest passing production of the season, but that number doesn’t tell how he controlled the game. On a second-and-13 play late in the third quarter, Williams ran back, dodged numerous defenders and somehow turned a potential sack into a 19-yard gain that moved the Trojans into territory. of Notre Dame.

A few plays later, he dodged another sack and taunted the Notre Dame defense as he headed into the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown that put USC ahead 31-14 early in the fourth. quarter. Time and time again, Oklahoma’s transfer dodged potential sacks to buy time for their receivers to open up. While his game numbers don’t jump off the page, that’s partly because USC only had nine possessions…well, eight if you don’t count the Trojans’ last possession when he put the ball in on your knees.

Of those eight real possessions, the Trojans scored six times with five touchdowns and just one field goal. They only pitched once the whole game. And when they did, it was actually Williams who took care of it. With USC lined up in the shotgun while facing a fourth-and-8 on home turf, Williams threw the ball 58 yards for a touchdown.

Two crucial games

While many highlights of this game will focus on Williams, and rightly so, two games in particular stood out above the rest in determining the outcome of the game. The first came early in the second quarter with Notre Dame trailing 10-0, but en route to USC territory. Faced with a fourth-and-1 on the Trojans 27-yard line, Freeman opted to go, but the USC defense got a nice push and stuffed ball carrier Mitchell Evans before he could. reach the sticks. If the Fighting Irish had scored a touchdown on possession, or even a field goal, it would have given the first half a different flavor.

The second game-changing play came on the opening possession of the third quarter with Notre Dame driving the football deep into USC territory as they led 17-7. The Irish had covered 49 yards on the series when disaster struck in the form of a fumble from Drew Pyne. Ralen Goforth fell over for the Trojans at the USC 26-yard line. Less than three minutes later, USC made a touchdown to make it 24-7. Minutes earlier, Notre Dame was on course to make it a one-possession play. But all of a sudden it became a three possession game because of the swing caused by the fumble.

Impacts of the CFP

With No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 LSU losing on Saturday, the Trojans will move from No. 6 to the new CFP rankings Tuesday night. The question is how high. With another victory over a ranked foe under their belt, USC has a case to move to No. 4 in the rankings ahead of Ohio State. Unlike the Trojans, the Buckeyes won’t be playing for a conference title next week after being destroyed 45-23 at home to No. 3 Michigan.

But Ohio State defenders will argue the Buckeyes shouldn’t be penalized too harshly for suffering a loss to the No. 3 Wolverines. With a non-conference win over Notre Dame and an 11-1 record , the Buckeyes have a similar resume to the Trojans at this point. The real split could happen next week if the Trojans are able to win the Pac-12 Championship Game. If USC enters the CFP, it would be the first time since the 2016 season that a Pac-12 team has made it into the four-team pool.

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