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Instant Analysis: USC 31, Notre Dame 17

10/23/2011

Stat Of The Game: Three Notre Dame turnovers

USC scored points off two Fighting Irish turnovers in the second half to provide the margin of victory in the game. The toughest one for the Irish had to be the fumble by Dayne Crist at the USC 1-yard line after Notre Dame had driven 90 yards in 19 plays. A touchdown there would have tied the game at 17-17, but instead Jawanza Starling picked up the fumbled snap at the 20 and ran 80 yards for a Trojans touchdown. USC also scored a touchdown directly following a fumble recovery by Chris Galippo in the fourth quarter.

Player Of The Game: Curtis McNeal

With 24 carries for 118 yards, McNeal led the way for a dominant Trojans run game that totaled 219 yards. McNeal got his yards in a physical fashion and it helped set the tone for the USC offense to maintain balance in tough road environment.

Turning Point: Starling's Recovery

With the score 17-10 in favor of the Trojans, Lane Kiffin elected to punt when the Trojans were faced with a fourth down in Irish territory. It seemed a little surprising, but when Kyle Negrete pinned ND on its own 9, the move suddenly appeared to make more sense. Then the Irish went on a long drive to the USC 1-yard line, but lost QB Tommy Rees for a few plays to injury. With Rees out, backup Crist fumbled at the 1, Starling recovered for the score and ND never got that close again.

Unsung Hero: Nickell Robey

Robey did a terrific job in coverage all night on Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd. He held the taller Irish receiver to four catches for 28 yards and prevented him from being a factor. Robey also had six tackles and added a late fourth-quarter interception.

How The Game Was Won: USC found ways to score points

The Trojans opened up the game with two extremely impressive drives. They later scored points off of turnovers and also added a field goal. When a team is scoring in multiple ways like that, and not turning the ball over, chances are it will win the game.

What It Means: Statement Game

It’s hard to underestimate what this game means to the Trojans and head coach Lane Kiffin. For the team, it shows a resolve to go on the road in an electric atmosphere against a solid opponent and come away with an impressive victory. Almost as important was the reliance on players other than Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. Those two certainly did their part tonight, but this game isn’t won without the production from guys like McNeal and Starling. For Kiffin, it was the signature win he was looking for in his brief USC career. His offensive play calling was as good as it's been with balance (224 passing yards to 219 rushing), a dramatic edge in time of possession (39:41 to 20:19) and no turnovers.