USC vs Notre Dame Offensive Recap

This post will look at the offensive stats in USC’s loss against Notre Dame at home this past weekend.  The post will first look at the play calling by USC throughout the game.  Then it will look at USC’s inability to sustain drives and move the ball offensively.

Play Calling

Overall, USC ran the ball 30 times (43%) and passed the ball 40 times (57%).  It was a fairly balanced game in terms of play calling, with a slight lean towards passing due to USC being behind for a decent portion of the game.  It is also worth noting that USC threw a decent number of bubble screens and swing passes.  These types of passes were to protect backup quarterback Mitch Mustain by giving him easy completions for short yards, but also these plays are used essentially as outside run plays.

Let us now look at the play calling by down.

USC especially threw the ball a lot on 1st down compared to normal.  Typically, most teams, including USC, tend to run the ball more on 1st down to help create more manageable 2nd and 3rd downs.  USC stayed fairly balanced on 2nd and 3rd downs.

Now let us look at the play calling by quarter.

USC started very balanced in the 1st quarter.  From that point, USC became unbalanced in each quarter, but didn’t stay consistent.  The 2nd quarter had a 2:1 ratio for passing.  The 3rd quarter actually had a 2:1 ratio for running, even though USC was behind at that point.  The rain which came in unexpectedly at halftime possibly had an impact on this.  And finally, the 4th quarter was 2.5:1 towards passing, most likley due to USC playing from behind.

Plays/Yards per Drive

USC had a very difficult time sustaining drives against Notre Dame.  Out of the 14 drives that USC took, seven drives ended in a punt, one resulted in a turnover on downs, one ended the first half, one ended in a costly interception, three resulted in field goals, and one was a touchdown.

First let us look at the number of offensive plays each drive took.

Each drive averaged only 5.1 offensive plays.  USC was held to a 3 and out three times (21%).  USC’s longest drive was a nine play drive which resulted in an interception.  Now let us look at the yards gained on each of these drives.

USC averaged only 16.5 yards on each drive.  USC’s only touchdown drive took four plays to go two yards.  Another interesting point of note is that every single point that USC scored came off of a turnover.  Yet, these drives only lasted 3, 15, 2, and 18 yards.  The two yard touchdown drive even took four plays to punch in.  USC simply could not move the ball or sustain a drive, even when the ball was given to them on a short field.  In fact, USC had an average starting field position on their own 46 yard line and took 49% of their offensive snaps on the Notre Dame side of the ball.


USC could not sustain drives because it could not convert first downs consistently.  First let us look at the average distance to go compared to the average gain per down.

USC had a below average 1st and 2nd down production, averaging only about four and a half yards gained.  Typically, USC will gain between six and seven yards on these downs.  This low production lead to less conversions on early downs, leading to a fairly low 3rd down average distance to go of only about five yards.  Yet, USC gained an average of only two yards on 3rd down.  But the real kicker is the conversion rate on 3rd down based on distance.

USC converted only 3/6 of their 3rd and shorts.  These downs need to be converted at a much higher rate.  USC converted on only 1/6 3rd and mediums, which actually came early in the 1st quarter.  This would be USC’s only conversion of a 3rd down which was at least four yards to go.  USC did not convert a single 3rd and long out of six tries.  These poor conversion rates killed drives for USC and resulted in many punts.


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