How Bo Bauer’s INT provided a critical early shift in Notre Dame-USC
Bo Bauer’s teammates made sure to let him hear it.
The Notre Dame senior linebacker came up four yards shy of his first career pick-six in the No. 13 Irish’s 31-16 win over USC Saturday. He snatched a deflected pass out of the air to stifle a Trojans red-zone possession and took off. Ten yards into his sprint, nothing but blockers and bluegrass were in front of him.
He could smell the end zone with every pump of his arms and every stride. Until his peripheral vision alerted him to a pursuer. It was USC quarterback Kedon Slovis, who began a dead sprint when Bauer picked off the throw and never stopped running. He pulled even with Bauer, fought off a stiff arm and tackled him at the four-yard line.
Once the celebration died down, the playful ribbing began. A quarterback had chased him down, after all. Teammates couldn’t resist the chance to poke fun.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Bauer said, laughing and acknowledging it.
Touchdown or not, it’s a momentum-swinging play.
USC had marched into the red zone early in the second quarter with every intent of tying the score 7-7. The Trojans had first-and-10 from Notre Dame’s 14-yard line. A sack sent the drive temporality backward and eventually led to a third-and-8 from the 12. Slovis wound up to throw, but graduate student defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa tipped the ball as he released it, sending it skyward.
Bauer plucked it out of the air and hit the gas pedal. Even though his tank hit empty before the end zone, the 79-yard return still changed the second quarter’s tune. Presumably, it took at least three points away from USC, if not seven. Notre Dame sputtered despite starting on the four-yard line and kicked a field goal, but give Bauer an unofficial assist for those points.
That’s a six-point swing, at minimum. Perhaps a 10-point swing. Either way, it squashed the Trojans’ best chance to tie the game. They didn’t get another. USC never had possession with the opportunity to tie again and trailed by multiple scores for a majority of the final three quarters.
Bauer’s interception ended the first of four straight USC drives that went at least 50 yards but did not reach the end zone. On the next drive, Notre Dame forced a field goal after USC entered the red zone. Following that, USC’s 52-yard march ended at halftime with no field goal attempt after some poor clock management decisions.
The Irish allowed USC to reach their 25-yard line on the first drive of the second half, but two pass breakups and a tackle for no gain led to a 42-yard field goal attempt that kicker Parker Lewis missed.
Bend but don’t break, epitomized. Notre Dame, though, calls it “RBI defense.” Neither Bauer nor senior cornerback TaRiq Bracy revealed the words that make up the RBI acronym in their postgame media sessions, but Bracy succinctly summed it up as “we just don’t want to give up any touchdowns and force field goals.”
Bauer did his part, even if it ended with him as the butt of some teammates’ lighthearted jokes. If nothing else, he went nearly twice as far on this return as he did when he intercepted a two-point conversion attempt in Notre Dame’s Oct. 9 win at Virginia Tech. That one may as well have been a dress rehearsal.
“I was just warming up the wheels,” Bauer said.
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