Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bryan Kelly Really Has No One But To Blame But Himself For Notre Dame Loss To USC

I'm extremely confused.  Did Notre Dame and USC switch game plans for the game tonight?

I'm sure legions of Notre Dame fans are wondering just how it is that Notre Dame ended up with only 43 net yards rushing tonight on just 14 attempts against USC (who, by the way, had 218 yards rushing on 44 carries).

Clearly USC had the better game plan tonight.  A ball control offense, utilizing the running game far more effectively than they had all season, accumulated 442 yards.  Quarterback Matt Barkley was accurate when needed, and very well protected in the pocket (not one sack by the Irish).

The Irish looked a step behind all night on defense, seemingly determined not to allow the big play deep but letting everything come in front of them.  Ultimately that hurt them, as USC had five drives of nine or more plays.  This resulted in the Trojans possessing the ball for almost 2/3 of the entire game (time of possession was 39:21).

All I can think was that Bryan Kelly simply out-thought himself.  He dialed up too many passing plays early, and the Irish couldn't get things going.  Whether it was nerves from the night game, the opponent, or the fact that this is still a fairly unsuccessful team that's still learning what it takes to play well in tough situations, they couldn't get it done.

The point where everything permanently turned against Notre Dame was when Irish quarterback Tommy Rees went down with a knee injury.  Senior Dayne Crist came into the game, and he blew his one shot at redemption.  For all the Irish fans out there who were still screaming for him to be playing, I think you got your answer why he isn't.  Botching a snap isn't the end of the world, but it is when your opponent picks it up and runs it back for the touchdown.  South Florida, anyone?

Had the Irish managed to run it in from the two-yard line at that point, the game would have been tied.  Rees was able to come back into the game after that, so there's a decent chance the Irish would go on to prevail   However, it was simply not to be. USC defeated the Irish 31-17.

It's a disappointing loss for the Irish, but they didn't deserve to win tonight.  If anything, the game showed that there's still a lot of work to be done.  They still need more talent on defense, and extra play makers.  They also need to continue to learn how to handle the pressure of the moment.

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