The nation’s greatest intersectional rivalry in college football renewed on Saturday night in South Bend, with a USC vs. Notre Dame score that likely turned some heads in Clay Helton’s first game since being named the Trojans’ interim head coach. The Irish won 41-31.
The lowdown: The Trojans started out poorly on defense, as Notre Dame jumped out with a 75-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer to Will Fuller. That was just a foreshadowing, as USC couldn’t find a way to slow down Brian Kelly’s offense. Notre Dame averaged 15.2 yards on their first 15 offensive plays. But the game turned on its head in the second quarter however, as the Fighting Irish had a 21-10 lead when Adoree’ Jackson forced a fumble just shy of the goal line. USC couldn’t score on the next drive and the Irish added a field goal, but from that point, it was all Trojans until the fourth quarter. Troy went on a 21-0 run to a take a touchdown lead on the backs of a Jackson touchdown, Jalen Greene pass and a big run from Ronald Jones to set up a Taylor McNamara touchdown. In the fourth quarter however, the Irish woke up after five-straight drives of 10 yards or fewer. Notre Dame went to their bread and butter back C.J. Prosise and had a couple of incredible catches to score a pair of touchdowns to outscore the Trojans 17-0 in the final 15 minutes to comeback, 41-31.
The takeaway: USC had a disastrous start given how easily the Fighting Irish were able to move the ball on offense, and score on big plays via receiver Will Fuller, running back C.J. Prosise and quarterback DeShone Kizer. Yet despite the struggles –including a blocked punt return for a touchdowns– USC found a way to pick themselves off the mat. For a team playing with an interim head coach just five days after Steve Sarkisian was fired, not to mention a team that has long struggled to make adjustments, that was huge regardless of the outcome. They took a 21-0 run into the fourth quarter while getting contributions from injury replacements and freshmen, along with the usual suspects. The blown lead highlighted a lot of USC’s long-known issues and is troubling. But you can’t fix every disaster in five days. The Trojans now must get better when they return to Pac-12 play.
Player of the game: Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise had a stellar bookended game, with 61 first quarter yards and a huge fourth quarter to put the Trojans away.
Stat of the game: USC’s offensive output was the most that Notre Dame has surrendered all year, a feat previously set by UMass. The Trojans eclipsed the 500-yard mark in the third quarter.
Next on tap: After playing the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish, USC’s next game won’t be much easier, as home against the highly ranked Utah Utes.