In a game termed the “Underachiever Bowl,” the USC Trojans capped off their disappointing regular season with something to smile about as they routed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 49-14 , at the Coliseum.
Both teams entered the game at 7-4 and with questions swirling around their head coaches. Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans were blown out by UCLA last week to end hopes of snatching a place in the Pac-12 championship game. Notre Dame, meanwhile, had lost three games in a row and dropped out of the playoff picture after a promising start.
Cody Kessler starred on the day, setting a record with six touchdown passes against the Irish. The Trojan quarterback who had faced criticism after his performance against UCLA bounced back with 372 yards on 32-of-40 passing.
On the opposing sideline, Everett Golson struggled to make a positive impact, throwing for 75 yards on 7-of-18 passing, with an interception and a lost fumble. In the second quarter he was replaced by Malik Zaire, who finished the game with 170 yards passing and a rushing touchdown.
USC started strong with an uptempo attack on offense but a leaping touchdown grab by JuJu Smith which was ruled incomplete after review left the Trojans without points on their opening drive.
The struggles of the Notre Dame offense under Golson, however, offered the Trojans other opportunities to get on the board.
Kessler hit George Farmer on a deep 48-yard pass for his first touchdown of the day.
The score was followed by a 16-yard touchdown over the middle to Adoree’ Jackson, then a 31-yard score to Farmer on the right. By the end of the first quarter the Trojans were in command with a 21-point lead.
To start the second quarter, Golson seemed to settle down. However, a pass slipped through the hands of Corey Robinson and right into the arms of Gerald Bowman for the Trojan interception.
Kessler hit Darreus Rogers for a six-yard touchdown to extend the USC lead.
On the next drive there was more disaster for Golson. Sacked by J.R. Tavai, he lost control of the ball and Hayes Pullard came up under it for the fumble recovery. Another Kessler touchdown, this one to Nelson Agholor from 14-yards out, put USC up by 35.
Golson was pulled after the turnover and Zaire, a sophomore, took his place. He promptly threw a 49-yard pass to set up his own 11-yard scoring run.
Another Notre Dame drive took them inside the red zone as the half neared its close, but a 44-yard field goal hit the uprights and the Irish were left with nothing.
The second half featured more of the same.
USC came out of half time with the same ease they displayed in the first half. Kessler capped off his day with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Randall Telfer in his final game at the Coliseum as a Trojan.
Later in the third, Justin Davis cut past a defender at the line of scrimmage then finished off the 16-yard run with a touchdown.
Notre Dame responded with a consolation touchdown from Greg Bryant.
With the season over for both teams, USC and Notre Dame now await news on their bowl opponents.
Stay tuned to Reign of Troy for more USC vs. Notre Dame post-game content.