Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s offensive shortcomings again highlighted by an explosive counterpart CB Cam Hart out for Notre Dame’s bowl game, but will return in 2023 Chris Terek’s flip from Wisconsin gives Notre Dame five OL commits in third straight class Highlights: USC 38, Notre Dame 27 — Arm, legs and foot of Caleb Williams too much for Irish upset bid USC defense, Caleb Williams’ Heisman-worthy performance never give Notre Dame an opening


There are two perspectives on USC’s 38-27 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday, both of which have to do with the Trojans being the best Irish yardstick.

USC beat Notre Dame in a way that underscores just how handicapped the Irish have always been this season. When the protector of the Trojans Caleb Williams began to solidify his status as Heisman’s leader with a performance that would be remembered for a long time, Notre Dame had no opportunity to continually oppose him.

“We didn’t stop them,” said Ireland’s head coach. Marcus Freeman said quite simply.

Without the offensive skills players needed to match Williams’ explosive play after explosive play, Notre Dame needed its defense to play perfectly, which is clearly unfair to Lincoln Riley resentment.

“USC is a great team” – Irish defender Drew Pine said. “It was a really good team that we played with there. They are going to continue and do great things until the end of the season. Caleb Williams is a great player.”

If the Irish didn’t have a junior tight end Michael Mayer – eight tackles on nine targets for 98 yards and two touchdowns – they may not have been able to keep even a vague distance from the Trojans. Three climbs to Deion Colzy scored 75 yards and three first downs, but everyone felt that Pyne had more hope than anything else.

Notre Dame still made it into a game, but on Saturday night in Los Angeles, the discrepancy in offensive playmakers was glaring.

And although both programs will undergo some changes – first of all Mayer for the Irish; recipient Jordan Addison and running back Austin Jones will likely both be at the next level next year among the Trojans this weekend – Notre Dame will need to close that gap in order to compete with USC next season.

A schedule difference may prevent the Irish from improving their 8-4 record too much this year, but it’s safe to say that Williams will be ready to shine again at South Bend on October 14, 2023.

Notre Dame right now doesn’t have the offensive firepower to deal with such a dynamic attack. As soon as the Irish gave the Trojans a chance to take the lead, their running game was softened and Notre Dame’s best hopes were reduced to Mayer and those to Colzy.

Williams can dance through any defense, maybe not even the Georgia defense. Even if the Irish minor was completely healthy, Williams’ rhythmic scrambles would still break the defense. If Utah takes the lead this weekend, it could be due to both USC’s frustration and some kind of Utes scheme. His fame is extreme, but this is college football 2022, again, minus Georgia.

Many will instinctively point out Pine’s shortcomings, ignoring how well he played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Yes, he made two mistakes, but one of them (an overhand tackle) came when Notre Dame was getting more and more desperate, and the other (an unfortunate exchange) was partly the result of the Irish abandoning their ground game when they fell. farther behind.

Pine finished 23 of 26 for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Each version of the breakdown of these statistics gives Pine praise. The reality of defeat and the reality of the opposing quarterback breaking through as a national star, no time was spent in postgame press conferences discussing Pine’s effective night.

But it was, no matter what.

His latest incomplete execution, an interception from Notre Dame’s own red zone, also eclipsed the second most accurate day in Irish passing history, but it was an understandable mistake. Notre Dame was two points behind with five minutes left. Losing the game to a one-shot was the last thing on Pine’s priority list.

If Pine has established a relationship with Colzy for the season, he may see him on the left flank, as Kirk Herbstrait emphasized on the air. If a Braden Lenzi slightly less jaded by a seasonal receiver shortage, perhaps he can rush into Pine’s rash pass rather than trying to settle for a low catch. If… maybe, if… maybe.

Only twice this season has USC managed just 31 real points, not counting short-field touchdowns in the last three minutes thanks to Pine’s selection, though not all that’s necessary given the Trojans haven’t scored 40 points just twice in their first 11 games. . . Oregon State and Washington State had the luxury of facing Williams before he reached his peak with this new set of receivers from the transfer.

The Irish defense played its part against USC. Notre Dame’s offense simply couldn’t match the star of the season.

Williams will star again next year. The Irish defense is likely to still be solid. These truths will continue this season. Notre Dame then has to wonder if its offense can develop and/or find more playmakers, a known need this season and now a pressing off-season issue, a need highlighted by the Trojans’ offense, an enemy that once again has to define 2023. .

Perhaps earlier than expected, Notre Dame has already received some good off-season news. senior defender Cam Hart will return for a fifth year at South Bend, though he won’t be wearing blocks for the Irish in any bowl game, he announced Tuesday night.

“Because of a shoulder injury I got while playing at Boston College. [sic]”I was unable to compete in our last regular season game and will not be able to compete in the bowl game this year,” Hart tweeted. “Hence, I believe that my time here is not necessarily over. The decision to enter Nor Dam University was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.

“In light of this, I have decided to return for a fifth season and look forward to taking the field with my brothers in 2023!”

Hart’s return in 2023 should give the Irish four returning full-backs with starting experience, just a fifth a year ago. Tariq Bracey a notable departure from this year’s full-back group.

Note. The use of the word “should” does not imply any other possibilities. The conditional was chosen in recognition of the ever-changing college football squads in 2022.

Hart took part in the Notre Dame Seniors’ Day celebration before meeting Boston College, which suggested that he was at least considering moving to the NFL. This quick announcement indicates that injury has ruled out that thought process, though injury has plagued him several times early in the season.

Hart’s shoulder injury flared up for the first time this year in the spring of 2022, costing him spring training. Previously, anxiety cost him part of 2019 as he adapted to playing wide receiver in high school. However, he played in 11 games in 2022, starting 10 and making 25 tackles, of which he lost three and passed four.

His defensive passes were down from nine in 2021 along with two interceptions, in part because opposing quarterbacks were less interested in testing the increasingly experienced guard. His 6’2.5″ height made Hart something of a close quarterback.

With current freshman Benjamin Morrison in a hurry to close this season and classmate Jayden Mickey Replacing Hart at USC, Notre Dame should enjoy a slew of proven defensemen in 2023. Clarence Lewis is the aforementioned fourth.)

In many ways, this will allow the Irish defense to start the 2023 season as calmly as they did in 2022, with Hart, Lewis and Bracey providing expert pass defense.

“You have three old veteran cornerers who can really play at any moment, which makes you feel good,” said the head coach. Marcus Freeman said in August. “Those three can play those two corner positions and I don’t think any of them will fall.”