No. 13 Notre Dame topped rival USC 31-16 at home Saturday. Running back Kyren Williams led the Fighting Irish with 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Notre Dame led for the entire game as it improved to 6-1. USC fell to 3-4 on the season.
It was Notre Dame's first matchup against the Trojans since 2019 after the Pac-12 canceled all nonconference games in the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Saturday's win, the Irish have now defeated the Trojans four straight times and extend their all-time series record to 48-36-5.
Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams: 25 CAR, 138 YD, 2 TD
Notre Dame QB Jack Coan: 20-of-28, 198 YD, TD, INT
USC RB Keaontay Ingram: 24 CAR, 138 YD, TD
USC WR Drake London: 15 REC, 171 YD
Notre Dame's Tempo Throws USC Off Balance
Notre Dame opened the game with an uptempo offense, and it seemed to work wonders for starting quarterback Jack Coan. He was able to make quick reads, work through his progressions and make easy throws.
Despite splitting time with quarterback Tyler Buchner, Coan got in a rhythm early and kept that momentum going throughout the game. He found Avery Davis in the end zone to open the scoring in the first quarter.
Coan orchestrated two long drives of 75 and 80 yards that culminated in touchdowns by Williams. Buchner found his way into the end zone to extend the lead after the Trojans made it an eight-point game.
Notre Dame on NBC @NDonNBC
WE'VE GOT A TOUCHDOWN.<br><br>Notre Dame extends their lead over USC.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoIrish?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoIrish</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/NDFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NDFootball</a> <a href="https://t.co/ygBc3zqrcx">pic.twitter.com/ygBc3zqrcx</a>
Notre Dame on NBC @NDonNBC
So nice, he did it twice ✌️<a href="https://twitter.com/Kyrenwilliams23?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Kyrenwilliams23</a> scores his second touchdown of the night!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoIrish?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoIrish</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/NDFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NDFootball</a> <a href="https://t.co/qwldjTHDEr">pic.twitter.com/qwldjTHDEr</a>
USC's defense looked out of sync as it tried to keep up, sometimes having the wrong personnel on the field or failing to get set before the snap. The Trojans also committed some untimely penalties that kept some of the Irish's drives alive.
Notre Dame seems to have found a formula that works with Coan under center. The tempo allowed him to make quick decisions and avoid the mistakes he had been prone to earlier this season. He also wasn't under a lot of pressure thanks to the quick throws.
The Irish should continue to employ the uptempo offense if they hope to make a late-season run to earn consideration for the College Football Playoff.
USC Fails to Capitalize on Early Opportunities
USC moved the ball well against Notre Dame's defense, but it couldn't take advantage of its early opportunities. The Irish lost All-American safety Kyle Hamilton to an apparent knee injury in the first quarter. The Trojans had three first-half drives in the red zone, but only three points to show for it.
Kedon Slovis had USC in position to tie the game early in the second quarter, but his pass was tipped and intercepted by Bo Bauer. Credit Slovis for not giving up on the play and tackling Bauer at the 4-yard line, as the Trojans defense held the Irish to a field goal.
Notre Dame on NBC @NDonNBC
TURNOVER ALERT 🚨<br><br>WHAT A PLAY BY <a href="https://twitter.com/____bb52?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@____bb52</a>!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoIrish?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoIrish</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/NDFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NDFootball</a> <a href="https://t.co/QN8dLLlO0A">pic.twitter.com/QN8dLLlO0A</a>
The Trojans also mismanaged the clock to end the first half. USC lined up for a fourth-down play but then burned its last timeout as the play clock was winding down.
After converting the fourth down, Slovis failed to find Drake London open in the end zone and chose to run the ball himself to get another first down. The offense couldn't get lined up quickly enough to clock the ball and set up a field-goal attempt as time expired.
Adam Grosbard @AdamGrosbard
So. Did Graham Harrell call a run on first down with 30 seconds left, or did Kedon Slovis check into it? And how did Slovis not know to throw it away on second down instead of keeping the clock running?<br><br>And why did USC have to use its final timeout on fourth down to begin with?
The Trojans opened the third quarter with another drive that stalled in the red zone. Parker Lewis then missed a 42-yard field goal.
USC finally broke through at the start of the fourth quarter with a touchdown run by Keaontay Ingram. Darwin Barlow also punched in a touchdown to make it an eight-point game, but the Irish answered with a touchdown on the next possession.
USC is still working through some uncertainty under interim coach Donte Williams. The Trojans will have to eliminate early mistakes so they can avoid constantly playing from behind as they move forward into the Pac-12 schedule.
Notre Dame will remain at home for next week's game against North Carolina. USC will host Pac-12 foe Arizona on Saturday.