Disappointing. One of the words USF coach Jeff Scott used to describe Saturday’s game at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Bulls (1-1) were routed 52-0 by No. 7 Notre Dame (2-0), the largest margin of defeat in program history.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your hat when you play such a great opponent,” coach Jeff Scott said. “From our side, obviously very disappointing.”
The Fighting Irish secured its 20th consecutive home win by way of seven touchdowns and a field goal.
Five of those touchdowns came in the first half, with quarterback Ian Book running for three. On all but two drives in the third and fourth quarter, Notre Dame scored.
The Irish converted on their first six third downs, which was what did in USF, according to Scott.
“We didn’t make the plays to get them off the field, that’s a big part of a defensive football is you got to be good on third down,” Scott said. “You got to get the offense off the field and they were much more efficient than we were on third down on both sides of the ball.”
Notre Dame’s ability to continue to gain yardage also dealt a blow, especially with its running game. The Irish finished with 429 total yards, and 281 were on the ground.
“We knew these guys were strong physical runners,” Scott said. “We knew we needed to do a really good job of wrapping up and we did not. They broke a lot of tackles and created some explosive plays but that’ll be something that we’ll definitely go back and chart and review and learn from.”
USF could not deliver against Notre dame’s defense either.
The Bulls’ largest gain came in the first half when running back Johnny Ford completed a 42-yard run into Irish territory. Ford would have kept going, but slipped and fell on Notre Dame’s 38-yard line.
Scott said this was the only moment he had hope for a comeback.
“I think we were down 14 to nothing and Johnny Ford broke out in the open and had a chance to go score and fell down and slipped on the turf,” Scott said. “[We had] a chance to go make it a 14-7 game and get us back into it.”
As for the game as a whole, USF only crossed the 50-yard line three times and entered the red zone once.
During the fourth quarter, Ford had a 22-yard run on third down and was able to get the Bulls to the Notre Dame 19-yard line. But four straight incompletions, including a pass breakup in the end zone on fourth down, ended USF’s most promising drive of the game.
Other than that, USF’s offense was locked down. So much so that the Fighting Irish’s goal was a shutout the whole time, according to their coach Brian Kelly at halftime.
He told his team he wanted to continue having a touchdown on each drive.
“I want a shutout,” he said on the USA broadcast. “I’m tired of being the nice guy.”
IM TIRED OF BEING THE NICE GUY pic.twitter.com/NbWakd9EU1
— Jessica Smetana (@jessica_smetana) September 19, 2020
The most notable time the Bulls were about to give Kelly a run for his money was in the second half when quarterback Noah Johnson started the fourth quarter with both 17-yard and 36-yard completions to receivers Omarion Dollison and Latrell Williams, respectively, which set up Ford’s 22-yard dash in the red zone.
Aside from being outmatched by Notre Dame, mistakes came at a cost.
With 3:23 left in the third quarter, punter Kenny Scribner missed the initial snap and scrambled to punt in time. His kick was blocked and the ball sailed over his head and was picked up by Fighting Irish’s Jordan Botelho on the 1-yard line. Botelho walked into the end zone, giving Notre Dame a 45-0 lead.
“We just decided we were out of long snaps first [team],” Scott said. “Our second-team long snapper, Bryce Barnard was unavailable and our third-team long snapper, Antonio Grier, got injured. We were out of long snappers and didn’t want to put [Schneider] back out there.”
Scott emphasized that there were no excuses for how his team played. Although they knew the skill level they were up against, Scott was disappointed and was expecting a better performance.
“Anytime we don’t play well, I know I didn’t do my job,” he said. “This is an opportunity for myself and the coaches to go back and watch the video and find ways where we could have played better.
“That loss is going to be there and it’s going to sting. But we do need to remember it’s not acceptable. But it’s in the rear-view mirror, which is about six inches right there [behind us]. The windshield is where our eye should be moving forward. There’s a lot ahead of us.”