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Saturday, September 3, 2011
Irish defense getting no help in first half

By Matt Fortuna

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's defense has held its ground thus far in the first half, limiting USF's offense to 122 yards and just six points (USF's Kayvon Webster returned a fumble by running back Jonas Gray 96 yards for a score). The Irish made a big goal line stop, watched Maikon Bonani miss a 52-yard field goal attempt to the left and then forced a three-and-out ... only to watch Theo Riddick fumble a punt return at his own 20. Notre Dame forced another three-and-out before Bonani's third field goal of the afternoon made it 16-0 with 4:04 left in the first half.

Bonani's earlier miss came after a gutsy fourth-and-1 call from Skip Holtz at the Irish 48 that kept USF's drive alive, though it ended up not mattering. Holtz was faced with a similar situation in the first quarter inside the Notre Dame 1 and with a 10-0 lead but opted for the kick.

The fact he went for it in a worse spot a quarter later seems baffling, especially considering the pros and cons of each situation. Then again, we have already seen one goal line play go the other way.

Speaking of which, the Irish offense has clicked at times between the 20s but has been lost in the red zone. Gray's fumble on third-and-goal in the first quarter preceded a Dayne Crist interception on third-and-goal in the second quarter. The senior quarterback underthrew Riddick in the back of the end zone and was picked off by DeDe Lattimore.

The Irish went three-and-out following the missed field goal and will get another chance to atone for its weak early performance before halftime.