Notre Dame football: 3 takeaways from high-stakes win vs USC Trojans

Audric Estime, Notre Dame football (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Audric Estime, Notre Dame football (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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With the coveted Jeweled Shillelagh at stake, plus College Football Playoff hopes, the Notre Dame football team emerged from Week 7 with 48-20 win over rival USC, saving what was slowly morphing into an disappointing season for the Irish.

No. 21 Notre Dame, coming off a grossly disappointing loss to Louisville just a week ago, had a tall task in front of them this week in trying to knock off No. 10 USC and reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams.

But it only took the Irish 49 offensive plays to secure a lopsided victory over the Trojans, If you would have told me before this game kicked off, that USC would possess the ball for 79 plays and the Irish would have just 49, I would have certainly thought the Trojans would have decimated the Irish and people would be casting serious doubt on the future of Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman. However, that was very much not the case in the 91st annual meeting between these two historic football programs.

It was (surprisingly) defense that enabled Notre Dame football to top USC

It was a chilly autumn night in South Bend, but inside Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish defense was red hot, especially in the first half vs the Trojans. Xavier Watts, the senior safety from Omaha, Neb., put the Irish defense into gear early, snagging not one, but two picks against USC QB Caleb Williams in the first half of this rivalry game. Sophomore CB Benjamin Morrison chipped in with an interception of his own, bringing the Irish takeaway tally to three.

Watts followed up a stellar first half with an incredible second-half performance, too. In the fourth quarter, the safety picked up a fumble for a scoop-and-score. He also forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter to compete a star-making game for the senior. Defensive lineman Javontae Jean-Baptiste forced a fumble of his own as well, give the Notre Dame football team a total of five forced turnovers— an incredible feat for a unit many were beginning to doubt after a sub-par performance against Louisville last week.