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3 Up, 3 Down: Notre Dame 22, USC 13

11/25/2012

LOS ANGELES -- A look at the positives and negatives from USC’s 22-13 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday.

THREE UP

1. Robert Woods

Woods emerged as Max Wittek’s go-to receiver early on and showed he was more than up to the challenge. Finishing with seven catches for 92 yards and one touchdown, he showed off his athleticism with a couple of highlight-reel grabs, and he was also particularly impressive in traffic.

2. USC ground attack

Both Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal found success rushing the ball against a Fighting Irish defense that entered the matchup ranked No. 5 against the run, and it’s somewhat of a wonder why the Trojans didn’t lean on the two more. Redd picked up 77 yards on 12 carries, while McNeal finished with 38 yards on nine rushes.

3. Red zone defense

The Trojans’ defense certainly had a tough go against a Fighting Irish offense that accumulated 439 total yards, but once Notre Dame reached the 20, USC hunkered down and actually performed solidly. The Fighting Irish made six trips inside the red zone and came away with just one touchdown, while settling for four field goals.

THREE DOWN

1. USC line play

The Trojans lost the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball by a wide margin. The Fighting Irish wore down the USC defensive front, compiling 222 yards on the ground with an average of 5.3 yards per rush. The Notre Dame defensive line, meanwhile, was just more physical than the USC offensive line for much of the night, a fact that was all too apparent in a Trojans’ fourth-quarter drive in which they ran eight plays from inside the Notre Dame 10 only to come away empty.

2. USC pass defense

The fact that the Fighting Irish were able to run on the Trojans wasn’t so much of a shock as the fact that they were able to pass on USC with so much success. The Trojans compiled just one sack and the secondary gave up a number of critical plays through the air. The Trojans’ pass defense looked especially out of whack in the first half, allowing Everett Golson to throw for 181 yards.

3. Play-calling and Game Management

The USC coaches have taken more than their fair share of responsibility for the team’s less-than-stellar play over the last month, and that trend is sure to continue this week following a loss that featured a number of head-scratching decisions. The defense’s inability to adjust to Notre Dame’s offensive game plan, Lane Kiffin’s choice to go deep at the end of the first half, the unimaginative playcalling on the now infamous fourth-quarter drive, and curious decisions on when to use timeouts are just a few examples and issues sure to be brought up.