Sunday, October 23, 2011
What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 8
By Matt Fortuna
1. The run game has some work to do: Notre Dame's ground attack, which averaged nearly 200 yards per game entering Saturday, made believers out of everyone six games into the season. But the Irish managed just 41 yards on the ground Saturday against the Trojans, with a large majority of those coming on Jonas Gray's 25-yard touchdown run. Facing a big deficit early, Notre Dame ran the ball just 14 times and will need to re-find its touch as it moves forward through the season.
2. The run D isn't as good as we thought: What was believed to be a mediocre USC ground attack marched for 219 yards Saturday. Give plenty of credit to Marc Tyler for a gutsy performance after dislocating his left shoulder last week against Cal, as the senior rushed for 67 yards on 13 carries in a game many thought he wouldn't play in. The potential return to normalcy in facing a more traditional offense did nothing for the Irish defense, which had a tough time up the middle all night.
3. George Atkinson has made a huge difference: Atkinson's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown got Notre Dame on the board and gave it some much-needed momentum. He did the same thing in Week 3 against Michigan State, and the freshman is now one of only four FBS players to return a pair of kickoffs for scores this season. He's the second Irish freshman to ever return two in the same season as well, joining Rocket Ismail in 1988.
4. USC's providing all of the juice in this rivalry at the moment: Lane Kiffin repeated his Super Bowl line in his postgame news conference, along with several other digs he sneaked in. And just take a look at some of the Trojans' players quotes following their 31-17 win Saturday night. Towels, night games and music can only go so far. Competitive games and bad blood are typically the marks of great rivalries. USC players are certainly providing part of that formula at the moment.