In his first start in four years, Mitch Mustain was asked only to manage the game for the Trojans. He did that fairly effectively, missing badly only once or twice but throwing the game-clinching interception in the final minute. USC's big-play potential was clearly affected with Mustain under center.
Marc Tyler was either still limited by the ankle sprain that has been bothering him for most of this month or just ineffective, averaging around three yards a carry. C.J. Gable got a brief chance in the second half but the run game was mostly nonexistent.
BIN THE TRENCHES
Defensive end Nick Perry showed what he's capable of when healthy, almost single-handedly producing a touchdown for USC when he sacked Notre Dame's Tommy Rees, forced a fumble and recovered it, taking the ball down to the two-yard line and setting up Mustain's QB sneak.
All of USC's scores all came as a direct result of big defensive plays, so any credit for the Trojans' 16 points has to go to this unit. Chris Galippo's pick set the tone for what was almost the Trojans' best defensive performance this season.
Kicker Joe Houston made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a career-long 45-yarder in the first quarter. Robert Woods did his best to spark USC with a 37-yard kick return in the second half. Jacob Harfman matched the Irish's Ben Turk kick for kick.
Lane Kiffin's playcalling decisions were often questionable, and his team was hurt by its six penalties that seemed to come at the worst times. Walk-on cornerback Tony Burnett was oddly used as an extra defensive back over players like Demetrius Wright and Jawanza Starling.