And in that corner… the USC Trojans

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Enough has been said about the recent dominance of the USC Trojans that it doesn’t warrant me talking about it as well. But I read one stat though that was particularly grim.

70% of Notre Dame’s roster has yet to see the Irish score a touchdown against Southern Cal.

Dan Woike has certainly seen plenty of the good times for USC. As a staff writer at, Dan has watched Pete Carroll and his Trojan troops beat Notre Dame to a pulp, as well as sneak out of South Bend on that fateful Saturday in 2005. Dan was kind enough to give me some time during this busy week for both of us, and give us a little better look at what we can expect this weekend.

Inside the Irish: Why do Pete Carroll and USC own Charlie Weis and the Irish?

Dan Woike: I think Pete Carroll has owned virtually every coach he’s
faced. It just so happened that Carroll and Charlie Weiss intersected at a bad
time for Notre Dame. USC was amassing so much talent while the Irish were
falling behind. After a couple of lopsided wins, it becomes a mindset.

ITI: Carroll is an immensely competitive person. Was there
something that Weis did or said that gets Pete especially amped up to play the
Irish? Did the 2005 game almost awaken the Trojans and remind them to assert
their dominance?

DW: I don’t know if there was a specific instance or anything. I
think the 2005 game was a classic, and Carroll knows that. The ending was
probably one of the most exciting drives of the past 10 years. Carroll would
never say this, but maybe the “decided schematic advantage” talk from Weis’
opening presser caught his eye, but I doubt that has a ton to do with it. He’s
competitive, but he doesn’t seem all that vengeful.

ITI: This isn’t the same USC team that we saw last year. Can
you talk a little bit about the offensive struggles the Trojans have had this
year? Did the performance against Cal lead you to believe good things are

DW: The struggles can be directly tied to the quarterback play.
The USC coaches were hesitant to really let Matt Barkley loose early in the
season, and that really hampered the team’s ability to make the big play.

I think against Cal, USC and the coaches decided to open
things up. You saw Barkley look down the field more, and with Ronald Johnson
coming back on Saturday, it’s only going to get better.

ITI: The defense didn’t rebuild it reloaded. Can you talk
about the challenges ND’s offense present the Trojan D, and what you think the
keys will be in this match up?

DW: This USC defense might not be as physical as in years past,
but this group is faster. The biggest challenges Notre Dame will face come from
the defensive line. This group is scary good and scary deep. Nick Perry and
Everson Griffen are devastating pass rushers, and defensive tackle Jurrell
Casey is just a flat-out star.

Also, the secondary with Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard do a good
job limiting big plays, making things tougher on any offense.

ITI: Are you at all scared about this game? Or have Trojan
fans just taken for granted Southern Cal’s recent dominance? If there is
something that worries you about Saturday’s game, what is it?

 DW: I think any time you go on the road with a young
quarterback, you should be a little worried. You never know when he’s going to
have a two or three interception game. I also think people realize this is a
much more gifted Notre Dame offense. I think Golden Tate is a key guy. If he
can make a big play, especially on special teams, it could shift the game.

ITI: What’s the perfect recipe for a Trojan win?

DW: Eliminate penalties and win the turnover battle, pretty

ITI: The Irish and the Trojans target a lot of the same
players. What does this game mean to recruiting?

DW: Not as much as you’d think. I explored this angle a lot last
year. Look at Manti Te’o. USC wanted him bad, beat up on Notre Dame and didn’t
get him. I think certain guys are more comfortable playing at USC for a guy
like Carroll, and other players are attracted to what Notre Dame has to offer.
Still, with mutual targets on the Notre Dame sideline, it never hurts to

Be sure to check out more of Dan’s coverage on the big game this week at

Go for two or not? Both sides of the highly-debated topic

during their game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.

Notre Dame’s two failed two-point conversion tries against Clemson have been the source of much debate in the aftermath of the Irish’s 24-22 loss to the Tigers. Brian Kelly’s decision to go for two with just over 14 minutes left in the game forced the Irish into another two-point conversion attempt with just seconds left in regulation, with DeShone Kizer falling short as he attempted to push the game into overtime.

Was Kelly’s decision to go for two the right one at the beginning of the fourth quarter? That depends.

Take away the result—a pass that flew through the fingers of a wide open Corey Robinson. Had the Irish kicked their extra point, Justin Yoon would’ve trotted onto the field with a chance to send the game into overtime. (Then again, had Robinson caught the pass, Notre Dame would’ve been kicking for the win in the final seconds…)

This is the second time a two-point conversion decision has opened Kelly up to second guessing in the past eight games. Last last season, Kelly’s decision to go for two in the fourth-quarter with an 11-point lead against Northwestern, came back to bite the Irish and helped the Wildcats stun Notre Dame in overtime.

That choice was likely fueled by struggles in the kicking game, heightened by Kyle Brindza’s blocked extra-point attempt in the first half, a kick returned by Northwestern that turned a 14-7 game into a 13-9 lead. With a fourth-quarter, 11-point lead, the Irish failed to convert their two-point attempt that would’ve stretched their lead to 13 points. After Northwestern converted their own two-point play, they made a game-tying field goal after Cam McDaniel fumbled the ball as the Irish were running out the clock. Had the Irish gone for (and converted) a PAT, the Wildcats would’ve needed to score a touchdown.

Moving back to Saturday night, Kelly’s decision needs to be put into context. After being held to just three points for the first 45 minutes of the game, C.J. Prosise broke a long catch and run for a touchdown in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Clemson would be doing their best to kill the clock. Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the game brought the score within 12 points when Kelly decided to try and push the score within 10—likely remembering the very way Northwestern forced overtime.

After the game, Kelly said it was the right decision, citing his two-point conversion card and the time left in the game. On his Sunday afternoon teleconference, he said the same, giving a bit more rationale for his decision.

“We were down and we got the chance to put that game into a two-score with a field goal. I don’t chase the points until the fourth quarter, and our mathematical chart, which I have on the sideline with me and we have a senior adviser who concurred with me, and we said go for two. It says on our chart to go for two.

“We usually don’t use the chart until the fourth quarter because, again, we don’t chase the points. We went for two to make it a 10-point game. So we felt we had the wind with us so we would have to score a touchdown and a field goal because we felt like we probably only had three more possessions.

“The way they were running the clock, we’d probably get three possessions maximum and we’re going to have to score in two out of the three. So it was the smart decision to make, it was the right one to make. Obviously, you know, if we catch the two-point conversion, which was wide open, then we just kick the extra point and we’ve got a different outcome.”

That logic and rationale is why I had no problem with the decision when it happened in real time. But not everybody agrees.

Perhaps the strongest rebuke of the decision came from Irish Illustrated’s Tim Prister, who had this to say about the decision in his (somewhat appropriately-titled) weekly Point After column:

Hire another analyst or at least assign someone to the task of deciphering the Beautiful Mind-level math problem that seems to be vexing the Notre Dame brain-trust when a dweeb with half-inch thick glasses and a pocket protector full of pens could tell you that in the game of football, you can’t chase points before it is time… (moving ahead)

…The more astonishing thing is that no one in the ever-growing football organization that now adds analysts and advisors on a regular basis will offer the much-needed advice. Making such decisions in the heat of battle is not easy. What one thinks of in front of the TV or in a press box does not come as clearly when you’re the one pulling the trigger for millions to digest.

And yet with this ever-expanding entourage, Notre Dame still does not have anyone who can scream through the headphones to the head coach, “Coach, don’t go for two!”

If someone, anyone within the organization had the common sense and then the courage to do so, the Irish wouldn’t have lost every game in November of 2014 and would have had a chance to win in overtime against Clemson Saturday night.

My biggest gripe about the decision was the indecision that came along with the choice. Scoring on a big-play tends to stress your team as special teams players shuffle onto the field and the offense comes off. But Notre Dame’s use of a timeout was a painful one, and certainly should’ve been spared considering the replay review that gave Notre Dame’s coaching staff more time to make a decision.

For what it’s worth, Kelly’s decision was probably similar to the one many head coaches would make. And it stems from the original two-point conversion chart that Dick Vermeil developed back in the 1970s.

The original chart didn’t account for success rate or time left in the game. As Kelly mentioned before, Notre Dame uses one once it’s the fourth quarter.

It’s a debate that won’t end any time soon. And certainly one that will have hindsight on the side of the “kick the football” argument.



Navy, Notre Dame will display mutual respect with uniforms

Keenan Reynolds, Isaac Rochell

The storied and important history of Notre Dame and Navy’s long-running rivalry will be on display this weekend, with the undefeated Midshipmen coming to South Bend this weekend.

On NBCSN, a half-hour documentary presentation will take a closer look, with “Onward Notre Dame: Mutual Respect” talking about everything from Notre Dame’s 43-year winning streak, to Navy’s revival, triggered by their victory in 2007. The episode will also talk about the rivalries ties to World War II, and how the Navy helped keep Notre Dame alive during wartime.

You can catch it on tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or online in the same viewing window.

On the field, perhaps an even more unique gesture of respect is planned. With Under Armour the apparel partner for both Notre Dame and Navy, both teams will take the field wearing the same cleats, gloves and baselayers. Each team’s coaching staff will also be outfitted in the same sideline gear.

More from Monday’s press release:

For the first time in college football, two opponents take the field with the exact same Under Armour baselayer, gloves and cleats to pay homage to the storied history and brotherhood between their two schools. The baselayer features both Universities’ alma maters on the sleeves and glove palms with the words “respect, honor, tradition” as a reminder of their connection to each other. Both sidelines and coaches also will wear the same sideline gear as a sign of mutual admiration.​

Navy and Notre Dame will meet for the 89th time on Saturday, a rivalry that dates back to 1927. After the Midshipmen won three of four games starting in 2007, Notre Dame hopes to extend their current winning streak to five games on Saturday.

Here’s an early look at some of the gear: