SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here are some quick thoughts on USF’s 23-20 win over No. 16 Notre Dame on Saturday.
How the game was won: USF won the battle in the red zone. The Irish were able to drive on the Bulls, but every time USF needed a big play deep in its own territory, it got one. USF forced turnovers on three trips Notre Dame took inside the USF 5-yard line. Kavyon Webster returned a fumble 96 yards for the opening score of the game; DeDe Lattimore and Mike Lanaris got critical interceptions. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many yards the Irish racked up, the USF defense did what it needed to do to help the Bulls get the win.
Turning point: Notre Dame cut the lead to 23-20 with 21 seconds remaining and went for the onside kick. The ball was bouncing and for the taking, but Lindsey Lamar recovered the ball and the Bulls walked out of South Bend with the victory.
Stat of the game: Five. That is the number of turnovers for Notre Dame in the game.
Unsung hero: Jerrell Young. It was Young who stripped Jonas Gray on the first drive of the game, causing a fumble that Webster picked up and returned for a touchdown. Then with 4:21 left in the game after a second weather delay, Young intercepted Tommy Rees on the very first play to seal the victory.
What Notre Dame learned: The Irish came into the season with high hopes for a BCS season. That might still happen, but they have got to learn how to take care of the football. Too many times the Irish had chances to score or seize momentum, and they failed to do so. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was so infuriated at several points in the game, his face turned various shades of red and purple. He pulled Dayne Crist for Rees in the second half, so we will have to wait and see whether he has decided to make that change for good.
What USF learned: The Bulls are no doubt a contender. A team that many thought would be a dark horse this season is not a secret any longer. A national television audience got to see what coach Skip Holtz has assembled at USF. B.J. Daniels looked much more confident and in command of the offense. Adjustments will have to be made on defense, but the Bulls leave South Bend having made a huge statement.
What it means: It was a statement game not just for USF but for the Big East. The league runs the high risk of going undefeated on opening weekend, something it desperately needed. USF might not be a national school, but the Holtz name is a national name, and this huge win will definitely be noticed around the nation.