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Notre Dame Football

No. 15 Notre Dame Fails to Contain QB Caleb Williams, Loses to No. 6 USC, 38-27

November 26, 2022

USC quarterback Caleb Williams dazzled throughout Saturday evening’s contest against No. 15 Notre Dame, carrying the No. 6 Trojans to a 38-27 victory.

He completed 18 of his 22 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown while running nine times for 35 yards and three more scores. 

The Irish sacked Williams twice despite pressuring him consistently throughout the game. 

“We told our guys he's going to spin,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said. “He's going to spin and work upfield. He's elusive and he's got huge legs. He's like a running back at times, but he's got the arm of a great quarterback. He's really difficult to bring down. He's a special player.”

William’s 44 scores this fall are the most by a USC signal-caller in a season. 

The win snaps USC’s four-game losing streak against the Irish, which dated back to 2016.

It didn’t help that Notre Dame was short-handed in the secondary. The Irish confirmed prior to the game that senior cornerback Cam Hart would not play. He reaggravated his shoulder in Notre Dame’s 44-0 win over Boston College.

Starting nickel cornerback TaRiq Bracy also spent the game on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury. This put true freshman Jaden Mickey in a number of one-on-one situations throughout the game and Williams threw his way often. The Trojans converted on eight of 12 third-down opportunities. 

Linebacker JD Bertrand and safety Xavier Watts led the Irish with nine tackles each. 

Defensive end Isaiah Foskey recorded 1.5 sacks, which gives him 11 on the season and matches his total in 2021. He also extends his career total to 26.5 sacks after breaking Justin Tuck’s Notre Dame record last weekend. 

Irish quarterback Drew Pyne did all he could to keep the Irish in the game. He completed 23 of 26 for 318 yards and three touchdowns. His 88.4 completion percentage is the second-highest single-game mark by a Fighting Irish signal-caller. 

Pyne didn’t throw his first incompletion until 13:43 left in the fourth quarter, but the Irish ultimately asked too much of him. He forced an interception with 4:56 remaining, and Williams scored three plays later on a 16-yard quarterback keeper to go up 38-21 with less than three minutes to play.

Irish tight end Michael Mayer led the Irish in receiving for the 10th time this season, snagging eight catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. 

Wide receiver Deion Colzie set a career-high with three receptions for 75 yards and a score. 

Turning Point

The Irish trailed 17-7 at the half. Notre Dame received the ball to open the third quarter and cruised down the field, going 52 yards on its first eight plays. 

Then the Irish squandered the offensive possession with an unforced fumble by Pyne at the USC 26-yard line.

USC responded with a seven-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that ended with Trojan running back Raleek Brown walking into the end zone untouched from five yards out. 

With a potential 14-point swing, the Irish were behind 24-7 midway through the third quarter, their largest deficit of the season. 

“You want to see how you compare against a team like that when you're playing at your best,” Freeman said. “We didn't play at our best. We had a couple of self-inflicted wounds. We turned the ball over twice.”

Pyne responded with a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deion Colzie, but the 17-point second-half hole was too deep for the Irish to climb out of against an explosive USC offense. 

Stat of the Night

USC: 39 carries for 204 rush yards and four touchdowns.

Notre Dame: 26 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown. 

The Trojans outgained the Irish on the ground by 114 yards and ran for 5.2 yards per carry. 

USC running back Austin Jones was especially productive, racking up 154 yards and 6.2 yards per carry, with seven runs going for 10 yards or more. 

“We didn't stop the run,” Freeman said. “For them to rush for 200 yards, that's not a formula for success. They're a dang good football team.”

Meanwhile, the Trojan defense entered the game allowing 4.6 yards per carry, which ranked 103rd out of 131 FBS teams. But Notre Dame could only muster a 3.5-yard average against the slanting USC front. 

The Irish essentially had to abandon the run by the end of the game and failed to eclipse 100 rush yards for the third time in 2022. The other occasions were a 21-10 loss to No. 2 Ohio State and a 35-32 win over Navy where Notre Dame ran for a 23-yard deficit in the second half. 

Highlight Reels

It could be any one of two dozen highlight plays by Williams, but this 19-yard run, where he likely ran 50 yards while dancing in the pocket, is a play no one else in college football could make.

Also, Colzie made a nice grab on his first touchdown catch of the year.

What’s Next?

The Irish will wait a week to learn its postseason destiny. 

Two popular projections are to play an SEC opponent in the Gator Bowl or a PAC-12 opponent in the Holiday Bowl. 

It’s unclear if 2023 NFL Draft prospects like Mayer, Foskey and left guard Jarrett Patterson will play or sit out.

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