Authors win over USC despite ‘adversity’ at Notre Dame

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After trading places at the podium with coach Marcus Freeman late Saturday night, Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman paused as a chant began.
Marcus is loved by all! Marcus is loved by all!”
Hartman smiled and replied, “Me too.”.
Freeman did not receive an outpouring of support for his team as it lost two of its first three games, dropping out of the College Football Playoff race. A 33-20 loss at Louisville, not long after a heartbreaking home defeat to Ohio State, had raised some doubts about the 37-year-old Freeman and Notre Dame’s direction.
The week ended in decidedly different and dominating fashion, when No. 21 Notre Dame smashed No. 10 USC 48-20, its biggest win against a top-10 opponent since 1995. With a total score of 54 against No. 9 Boston College in 1992, Notre Dame scored the most points against an AP top-10 opponent since then. Notre Dame scored on offense, defense, and special teams.
Freeman said, “Adversity is part of life.” “I told our guys … I want to be an antifragile program. I told them that on Monday. What does that mean? We weren’t able to get through it, through adversity. We are better because of it. It’s easy to say that, but the challenge is to do what it takes to be better, and this is what our coaches and players did.”


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The Fighting Irish defense achieved a rare feat against USC quarterback Caleb Williams and the top-scoring offense in the country, averaging 51.8 points per game leading up to Saturday. Notre Dame became the only team to pick off Williams three times in a single half, with safety Xavier Watts making two of those interceptions. In fact, the Irish dominated in turnovers throughout the game, finishing with a notable 5-0 advantage. This tied for the fourth-highest turnover margin against an AP top-10 team in the last two decades. Watts was particularly impressive, also forcing a fumble and scoring off a 15-yard return in the final minutes.
USC’s offensive line was consistently on his heels and the Irish registered six sacks, 11 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. In addition, they became the first team in the past 20 seasons to record five takeaways and a special teams touchdown against a top-10 opponent — on Jadarian Price’s 99-yard kick return in the fourth quarter.
Afterward, Hartman joked that he threw the ball a few times and would buy defensive coordinator Al Golden a new Ferrari.
The mentality, the work, the preparation all aligned perfectly, and it’s a credit to our head coach,” Hartman said, who threw two touchdown passes, including one to Chris Tyree in the third quarter after USC finally reached the end zone. The guys were beat up Monday night, so we were like, ‘Shoot, we gotta go.’ All week, we said, ‘What better time to have USC come play?’
“I’ll never forget that moment.”
Watts became the first player since Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau in 2022 to record two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a defensive touchdown against Penn State.
I was out there just playing, trying to have fun, doing my job, and all of a sudden it happened.” Watts said.
In three tight-contested games against Ohio State, Duke, and Louisville, Notre Dame led by 11 points or more for 34:14 on Saturday. Despite only having one drive longer than 50 yards and only converting 3 of 10 third-down plays, the Irish scored on all five red zone chances.
According to Freeman, his coaching staff had “difficult conversations,” reevaluated what they were doing in practice, and ultimately simplified their approach to eliminate confusion.
Freeman said the weeks that you lose are really long around here. The expectation is that you win every game you play. I know the hours are the same, but the weeks that you win seem to go by so quickly, and the next opportunity is right around the corner. “But that’s just how life is.” It’s time to pick your head up and get back to work.”

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