Q&A with The Observer’s football reporter

USC hosts Notre Dame on Saturday in the last week of college football’s regular season. The teams sport identical 7-4 records, and recently both had their hopes to make the College Football Playoff dashed. Notre Dame looked like a serious contender until losing three straight games heading into this weekend, while USC’s hopes to back into the Playoff by stealing the Pac-12 title ended when the Trojans lost to UCLA.

USC will attempt to slow down Irish quarterback Everett Golson, who was in the conversation for the Heisman trophy for most of the season. The Notre Dame defense, meanwhile, will be tasked with slowing down USC junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor and redshirt junior tailback Javorius “Buck” Allen, who had off-games at the Rose Bowl last weekend.

Daily Trojan sports editor Aubrey Kragen interviewed Isaac Lorton, the football reporter at Notre Dame’s The Observer, to give Trojan fans a better picture of what to expect in the nation’s best intersectional rivalry game on Saturday.

Daily Trojan: After starting the season 7-1, Notre Dame has lost the last three straight games. Has there been a common theme in these losses?
Isaac Lorton: First, turnovers. Turnovers have plagued the Irish this season, and are the major cause of their losses. Golson is obviously is the biggest offender of turning over the ball, with 20 of Notre Dame’s 24 turnovers. The Irish have given up 191 points off of turnovers and put themselves in huge holes by coughing up the ball.
Secondly, the Irish kicking game has been disgusting recently. The holders have been having issues and Kyle Brindza has been having major issues as well. He is 13-22 on the season and a number of his misses have come at crucial moments in the game.



All Gold Everything · Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is eighth in the nation with 3,280 passing yards this season. He’s accounted for 29 passing touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns. – Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics

DT: Last week, UCLA’s Brett Hundley exposed serious problems in USC’s secondary. Do you see Everett Golson having the same success?
IL: Golson definitely has the capability to exploit the Trojan secondary. Even in Notre Dame’s 55-31 loss to ASU, Golson put up huge passing numbers, throwing for 446 yards. Like Hundley, Golson is a dual-threat quarterback. USC’s defense will have to make the choice between adding an extra person in coverage or having someone stay home and spy Golson.


DT: Louisville ran all over Notre Dame’s defense last week. Do you see the Irish being able to stop Buck Allen and the Trojans’ rushing game?
IL: Notre Dame’s defense is hurting. I definitely see it as an opportunity for Allen to gain some major yardage. With freshman Nyles Morgan at Mike replacing the injured Joe Schmidt, Notre Dame has seen a decrease in production from its run defense. Also, injuries along the line to key players like Sheldon Day hurt the Irish against Louisville. Tackling on initial contact has also been an issue with the Irish; so yes,the Trojan rushing game could very well likely have a big game.


DT: With Notre Dame’s playoff hopes dashed, what does this team have to play for anymore?
IL: That’s a good question. The team has pride left to play for, but even that idea seems to be faltering as the Notre Dame squad was unable to get it together for its seniors at home against Louisville. A bowl game is a for sure, but which one does not necessarily matter at this point. Mainly, I think the team is playing for how it will be perceived in the future. With a large number of starters returning, Notre Dame looks to have a solid team next season. Now it is simply playing rid itself, even a little bit, of the perception that it is a perennially overrated team.


DT: Prediction?
IL: Although the answers seem rather critical of the Irish, I still think Notre Dame will pull out the road victory.
Notre Dame 38, USC 35.