ND's Will Fuller: USC 'doesn't have any respect for us'

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Forget that USC heads to South Bend with a new head coach, or that the Trojans have lost three of their first five games in an already disappointing season. Forget that Notre Dame is the ranked team of the two, or that the Irish are playing at home, or that the weather is in their favor, or that Las Vegas has anointed them clear, convincing favorites.

Regardless of the perception, or the noise, junior wide receiver Will Fuller only remembers one thing.

49-14.

“They pushed us around a lot last year,” said Fuller, who caught five passes for 75 yards in last season’s 49-14 drubbing to USC in Los Angeles. “We know they don’t have any respect for us. We have to earn our respect back.”

Notre Dame certainly has the weapons to accomplish that feat on Saturday. The passing game starts with Fuller – a 6-foot, 184-pound junior – who leads the Irish in every significant receiving category. On a national scale, he ranks tied for sixth in touchdowns (7), 15th in receiving yards (571) and 20th in receiving yards per game (95.2) and yards per catch (19.7).

Fuller already has five touchdowns of at least 30 yards this season, and he sits sixth among active players with 23 career touchdown catches.

None of this is lost on Clay Helton, USC’s interim head coach.

“Offensively, I’ve been extremely impressed by their skill, starting with Will Fuller, probably one of the premier wideouts in the country right now,” Helton said this week.

On Saturday, capability meats opportunity. USC ranks just 73rd nationally in pass defense, allowing 229.6 passing yards per game to the likes of Arkansas State, Idaho, Stanford, Arizona State and Washington. The Trojans have surrendered six passes of 30 or more yards and four passes of 40 or more yards along the way.

Maybe, if Fuller shakes loose in the secondary, he can help eradicate the memory of 49-14 – six points at a time.

Maybe, if results meet expectations, the Irish can recover some respect.

“There’s always a lot of motivation when something like that happens,” Fuller said. “We have a lot of the same guys coming back. Like I said, they don’t have any respect for us. We have to earn our respect.”

Wimbush's pass and Fuller's catch (ruled incomplete). (30 photo/gif) #NDInsider@SBTribune@NDFootball#NotreDamepic.twitter.com/qSgR871jUV

— Robert Franklin (@TheRobFranklin) September 27, 2015

C.J. Prosise (20), Mike McGlinchey (68) and Will Fuller (7) celebrate a Fighting Irish touchdown during the first half against Navy, Saturday, October 10, 2015, in South Bend. SBT Photo/ BECKY MALEWITZ