The headlines, as they can often do, say it all:
Notre Dame capitalizes on turnovers to crush USC – Chicago Sun-Times.
USC doesn’t put up much of a fight in 49-14 loss to Notre Dame – LA Times.
Whether the Trojans read those stories or not doesn’t much matter. They lived the nightmare that was Saturday night in South Bend, a 49-14 drubbing. They watched their ranking plummet, all the way to No. 21, 10 spots from its previous post of 11. There was only one manner in which the Trojans could approach this week’s practice: Humbled.
And that’s exactly what coach Clay Helton said his team is.
“I think humble was the word,” Helton told the media at his press conference in Monday, when asked to describe the mood of his team. For good reason.
Saturday marked the first time Notre Dame had beat a ranked USC team since 1995. Even the typically optimistic Helton was left searching for words.
“We helped them by mistakes,” he said afterwards.
Lots and lots of mistakes. It’s been a season-long theme for the Trojans, who after eight weeks now rank nearly dead last in all of college football in turnovers lost. Only San Jose State has turned the ball over more than USC, which has coughed up the ball, either via interception or fumble, 19 times this year.
They came in a variety pack on Saturday night, with a fumbled snap, an interception, a muffed punt.
“The turnovers were key for us in the first half and being opportunistic, which really we’ve been all year offensively,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said afterwards. The Irish took advantage, jumping out to a 21-0 lead, thanks in large part to USC’s inability to take care of the ball.
“When they take away the ball, you just get so excited, and [offensive coordinator Chip] Long wants to be aggressive and call a play, usually,” Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush said.
That’s something the Trojans hope to remove from the equation this weekend against Arizona State, with the Pac-12 South lead on the line.
“We’ve done so many ball control drills, I can’t even tell you,” Helton said at practice on Monday, adding that the coaches have preaches ball security to the point that USC is “blue in the face.”
Blue in the face and humbled. A new look for USC football indeed.