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Notre Dame Football

USC's 'Deadly' Offense Has Notre Dame's Attention

October 7, 2019

A week ago, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly didn't mention a single Bowling Green player by name during his Monday press conference. 

Kelly mentioned eight USC skill positions players this week in the first three minutes of his presser. 

"We were able to learn more about our football team as we prepare for USC this week," Kelly said of the win against Bowling Green. "Prepare for a team that is very, very deadly on offense in the sense that they can make you pay if you are not prepared and playing every single play." 

USC has morphed into a big-play offense under new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and that's with three different starting quarterbacks. 

True freshman Kedon Slovis figures to get the start on Saturday after getting knocked out of the Utah game after two passes and missing last week's game against Washington. 

"I think Coach (Clay) Helton is to be commended for having one of the top passing offenses in the country having gone through a couple different quarterback situations," stated Kelly. "To bring some stability to the offense after losing your starting quarterback and then having to go to a true freshman and then certainly having to play Slovis and Fink, you know, he's done such an incredible job."

Slovis has put up big numbers in his four appearances for the Trojans as he's completed 60-of-77 passes (77.9%) for 732 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Junior quarterback Matt Finke filled in for the injured Slovis and has completed 40-fo-62 passes for 514 yards, four touchdowns and four picks. 

"As a true freshman, he's been really, really good," Kelly said of Slovis. "Shows savvy and poise. Very good arm talent. He can throw the ball all over the field, and he's extremely accurate, throwing it over 70% completion.

"We'll certainly be prepared for both, but expecting Slovis to start."

Losing starting quarterback JT Daniels to a torn ACL in week one wasn't ideal, but the Trojans have a receiver corps who can make any quarterback look good. 

Michael Pittman is the No. 1 option as he's caught 35 balls for 501 yards and four touchdowns. Tyler Vaughns is close behind with 31 receptions for 414 yards and two scores. 

Amon-Ra St. Brown is USC's third receiver with 24 catches for 238 yards and three scores from the slot. 

"I think you start there offensively with the best wide receiving core that we'll see all year without question," Kelly said. "The trio of Pittman, Vaughns, and St. Brown, just a very, very talented group. They complement each other extremely well.

"Pittman is explosive and gets down the field. Big play receiver. Catches everything that's thrown his way.

"Vaughns has got great length. It's a matchup issue. Then St. Brown in the slot is physical, competitive, does all the tough jobs as well." 

The air raid Harrell brought to USC has received headlines through the first five games, but Kelly knows the Irish have to stop the run too.

Vavae Malepeai leads the Trojans with 360 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Stephen Carr has rushed for 189 yards and two scores. 

Former Notre Dame commit Markese Stepp has rushed for 159 yards and one score. 

"Now, the thing they have obviously with their new offensive attack puts you in a very difficult situation in terms of how you're going to defend them," explained Kelly. "Which opens the run game. Malepeai and Carr are two outstanding backs. Add Markese Stepp to the mix, and now you've got a downhill, big, physical runner.

Carr with elite speed, naturally gifted, can come out of the backfield. I think Malepeai a very underrated back that can do all the jobs for them."

No. 9 Notre Dame will have its hands full with the Trojans, but it also has the attention of Irish if the rivalry itself didn't. 

"I know our guys are excited," said Kelly. "I'm sure they're coming off a bye week healthy and ready to play their best as well. 

"They've done a really, really good job of putting themselves in a position to challenge for the Pac-12 championship and put themselves in a position to obviously do great things this year.

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