SOUTH BEND – For the first time since 1993, Notre Dame has won four consecutive games against its rival from the West.
The 13th-ranked Irish played arguably their most complete game of the season in a 31-16 victory over USC tonight at Notre Dame Stadium, showing more offensive firepower than they have all season and holding USC's offensive playmakers in check to improve to 6-1 and avoid a second straight loss at home after the Oct. 2 defeat to Cincinnati.
The Irish led 17-3 at halftime and appeared to put the game away with a 13-play drive late in the third quarter that moved the ball 80 yards and ended in a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Kyren Williams, who also had the longest play of the night for the Irish with a 38-yard run around the left side earlier in the possession.
The Trojans closed to within 24-16 after back-to-back touchdown drives sandwiched around a Jack Coan interception on a 50-50 ball in the direction of wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. The Irish responded to that challenge with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 3-yard touchdown run for specialty quarterback Tyler Buchner. Williams had six carries for 34 yards on the clinching drive.
It was a costly victory for the Irish, in one sense, however: All-American safety Kyle Hamilton suffered what appeared to be a knee injury in the second quarter as he shoved USC wide receiver Drake London out of bounds after a reception. Hamilton needed to be helped off the field, though he was reportedly walking on his own power on the sideline later in the game. He did not return.
Here's more of what you should know from Notre Dame's victory.
- This was the 92nd meeting in a rivalry that dates to 1926 and had been played every year from 1946 to 2019. The 2020 version was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Notre Dame has won four straight against the Trojans for the first since it took 11 straight from 1983 to 1993.
- Coan, who was benched in the previous two games, went 20 for 28 for 189 yards, a touchdown and the pick. He underthrew a couple of potential big gains, but was mostly solid. He only got sacked once and got the ball out quickly and accurately on the whole. It helped that USC only rushed three much of the first half. Coan led four long touchdown drives and a fifth sustained possession that ended in a missed field goal.
- Williams ran 25 times for a season-high 138 yards, the first 100-yard rushing game for an Irish player this season and seventh of his career. Notre Dame got better push on run plays than it has most of the season (again, helped because the Trojans were dropping eight into coverage often), but Williams also made several nice moves for extra yardage. He also caught six passes for 42 yards, including a key 17-yard catch on a halfback angle route in the fourth quarter on third-and-14.
- The Notre Dame defense was in full bend-but-don't-break mode and held the Trojans without a touchdown until the 14:52 mark of the fourth quarter. One of the game's biggest plays was a Bo Bauer interception of Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis in the red zone that the linebacker returned 79 yards to the USC 5. Defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa set up the pick by hitting Slovis as he threw.
- USC wide receiver Drake London, who came into the game in the top five in the country in receptions (60) and receiving yards (832), was the focal point of USC's passing attack, making 15 catches for 171 yards. Hamilton's injury didn't help, but the Irish were already struggling to defend the all-everything receiver before that.
- USC's Keontay Ingram ran 24 times for 138 yards and a touchdown. The Irish struggled to bring him down in space all night.
- Notre Dame will be back in action next Saturday, when it will face North Carolina (4-3) at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the fifth straight opponent the Irish will face that is coming off a bye. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC. The Tar Heels, ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll before the season, have not lived up to expectations, but are coming off a 45-42 win over Miami (Florida) on Oct. 16.