OPINION: USF – Notre Dame takeaways

USF’s 52-0 loss against Notre Dame was the largest margin of defeat in program history. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

There’s no putting it lightly — Notre Dame destroyed USF.

The 52-0 loss was the most lopsided in program history, and that’s apparent on the scoreline alone.

On the field, the Irish outclassed the Bulls on both sides of the ball — USF picked up a total of 231 yards, while Notre Dame’s offense ran for 281 yards on its own.

The Fighting Irish played much better football, and at times, the Bulls beat themselves up when they had chances of their own.

In a vacuum, it’s a terrible loss. But first-year head coach Jeff Scott is 1-1, and there are still at least nine games to play this season.

Punting blunders cutting deep

Not one, not two, but three punting gaffes exposed USF, with the first coming from usually consistent Trent Schneider in the first quarter.

The Bulls, already deep into their own territory, were forced to punt on fourth down. What happened next was reminiscent of The Citadel’s punting blunder last week — a botched snap that forced Schneider to scramble to get it away.

Except this time, it didn’t go in the Bulls’ favor. Schneider managed to punt it 21 yards, avoiding a bad case of déjà vu.

The only upside was that it didn’t turn into a zero-yard return for a touchdown.

On USF’s next drive, another blunder struck. On fourth-and-5, the Bulls lined up in punt formation but quickly shifted to go for it with wide receiver Jah’Quez Evans behind center.

The play didn’t fool Notre Dame or anyone, really.

Evans dropped back, was immediately rushed and sacked for a loss of 9 yards.

The last muffed punt in the third quarter hurt the most — backup punter Kenny Scribner missed the snap and tried to kick it away, but it was blocked and landed right in front of USF’s goal line. 

Notre Dame’s Jordan Botelho scooped it up and rolled into the end zone for the Irish’s sixth touchdown of the day.

USF’s punters — including quarterback Jordan McCloud with a 35-yard punt in the third quarter — averaged 24 yards. 

Simply put, it’s rather atrocious.

It’s one thing to lose big to a ranked opponent. And sometimes you might beat yourself in a game like this.

But when the biggest mistakes are from punting, that’s when you know things have gone terribly wrong.

Defense shredded by Irish

The scoreline on its own reflects this, but it could’ve been much worse. At the end of the first half, the score was 35-0.

The Irish offensive line did its job opening up pockets for quarterback Ian Book and rushers to take advantage of. The line, at times, looked like a professional unit — Notre Dame was 6-of-6 on its first six third downs and didn’t give up any sacks throughout the game.

Quarterback Ian Book went 12-of-19 and for 143 yards. He also scored three touchdowns on four red-zone rushes.

USF’s defense was punished when it counted, and it didn’t help that starting linebacker Dwayne Boyles was ruled out of the game with an injury in practice. Top tackler Antonio Grier suffered an unspecified injury in the first half and didn’t play much.

Down their two best linebackers, the Bulls allowed 429 yards of total offense.

The Irish didn’t care who was out, they just wanted blood. At halftime, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly called for a shutout and said he “was tired of being the nice guy.”

The Fighting Irish, too, it seems, were tired of being nice, and they delivered on Kelly’s demand.

Starting quarterback still a question mark

USF played the same three quarterbacks as last week — McCloud, Noah Johnson and Katravis Marsh.

None of them won anyone over, however.

McCloud, the starter for the second week in a row, went 8-of-14 for 64 yards. On five attempts he ran for 21 yards, one of which was the second-longest rushing attempt of the game at 14 yards.

Johnson went 4-of-12 for 61 yards and ran for 12 yards on six attempts. Marsh went 0-of-3.

In total, USF’s quarterbacks had a pass completion rate of 43 percent for 125 yards.

Quarterback Cade Fortin has still yet to play for USF, having been listed on the unavailable list for the past two weeks. His inclusion in the team, once available, will be a welcome change.

Nobody has impressed so far, and it’s back to square one for selecting a starting quarterback for the season.

Arguably, it’s two steps back, as USF is now two weeks away from its self-imposed deadline of finding a starter by the Cincinnati game on Oct. 3.