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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Unsuccessful in Mission to Stop USC QB Caleb Williams

November 27, 2022

No. 15 Notre Dame entered preparations for No. 6 USC this week knowing quarterback Caleb Williams was the key to the show. 

The Trojan defense, while opportunistic, wasn’t scaring Tommy Rees and the game hinged on the Irish being able to at a minimum slow down the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder. 

When the dust settled on LA Memorial Coliseum, Williams completed 18-of-22 passes for 232 yards, while running for 35 yards and totaling four touchdowns in USC’s 37-28 win on Saturday night in LA Memorial Coliseum. 

It wasn’t Williams' best night on paper, but he created pure chaos for the Notre Dame defense by putting Al Golden’s unit in unfavorable situations from the start of the game. There were countless times Williams ran circles around the Irish defense only to make a big-time throw or simply live to see another day. 

"You guys saw his ability to extend plays,” Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand stated. “That was one of the biggest things - his ability to keep the play alive even though it really should be a dead play. To escape the pocket and still keep it going, it led to those extra pass yards and it led to him getting explosive runs. That was one of the biggest things we needed to stop and that we didn't do." 

The passing plays and three rushing touchdowns will be on highlight reels for the next few years, yet it was those predicaments Williams put Notre Dame in on the edge of the defense with his arm, but his legs. 

USC running back Austin Jones was a big benefactor of the Irish defense's inability to slow Willaims down as he ran 25 times for 154 yards on the night. 

"We obviously needed to be better there,” Bertrand said Williams’ ability to run and extend plays. “That's part of the dual threat a lot of times, we were outnumbered because they have the threat to run the quarterback. We can't go one-for-one on blocks. We needed to get off blocks and make those plays." 

Golden did try multiple schemes and fronts to get to Williams on the night. Notre Dame finished with two sacks and while official stats say two pressures, it certainly felt like more as Williams danced around the field. 

"He's freaky athletic,” explained Bertrand. “It shows, obviously. The biggest thing as we bring pressure up the middle, we need to make sure we keep our edges going up field. As we get through up the middle, when he spins back, we need to make sure we're staying vertical to keep him contained. That was one of the biggest problems we had." 

Yes, Williams was always going to make a few spectacular plays as he entered the clash as the Heisman favorite, but Notre Dame failed to slow him down on Saturday as the Trojans punted just twice in the game. USC also had four scoring drives of over 75 yards. 

“It’s difficult to play catch up to any team,” said Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman. “When you’re not able to stop their offense, it’s extremely difficult. We weren’t able to do that at critical points in the game. There were a couple times we got a stop, but at critical points in the game, we weren’t able to get a stop.” 

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