Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 26, 2019*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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20 OCT. 26, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI W hat at first appeared to be a cruise control joy ride for No. 9-ranked Notre Dame (5-1) almost turned into a sudden crash before hanging on to defeat USC (3-3) 30-27. Rolling on methodically while building a 17-3 halftime lead that was upped to 20-3 early in the third quar- ter, the Fighting Irish survived a fierce second-half USC rally and didn't seal the victory until junior tight end Brock Wright cradled USC's bouncing onside kick with 1:03 remaining. Relying more on the passing attack in the first five games while ranking only 62nd nationally in rushing with a 164.8 average, Notre Dame nearly doubled that output with a 308-yard effort on the ground, highlighted by a career-high 176 yards on 25 carries from senior running back Tony Jones Jr. That was coupled with a clutch 75- yard, 14-play touchdown drive that consumed 6:54 and engineered by se- nior quarterback Ian Book to provide a 30-20 cushion with 3:33 left. USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis (24 of 35 for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions) and his explosive receiving corps found their groove in the second half to score three touchdowns after the intermis- sion and nearly pull off the upset. "At halftime they knew that they had to play for four quarters," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of his team. "There was no giddiness of, 'Hey, we've got this thing.' "They knew that USC, they had bite to them … you could feel that out there, and our kids can too." Notre Dame prides its offense on taking what the defense provides, and against the Trojans it was more openings via the run. "Whatever means necessary to win a football game, whether it's throw- ing the football or running the foot- ball, you have to be equally effective," Kelly said. "They were playing a two- deep zone, and it was important that we ran the football in that situation." Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer earned the game ball, making all three of his field goal attempts, from 45, 52 and 43 yards. FIRST QUARTER: USC, 3-0 Top Moment: USC kicker Chase Mc- Grath booted a 40-yard field with 2:13 remaining on its third series to end an eight-play, 28-yard drive. It was kept alive when Trojans wide receiver Drake London recovered a fumble by Slovis on a scramble at the Irish 22-yard line. Standout Performers: USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had a 10-yard punt return to set up the lone score, and caught four passes for 35 yards. An open but diving St. Brown at the Irish 1-yard-line could not hold on to a low pass by Slovis, forcing the Trojans to settle for the field goal. For Notre Dame, fifth-year senior linebacker Asmar Bilal had two tack- les for loss among his five stops. Stats: USC compiled 90 total yards (50 passing and 40 rushing) while Notre Dame had 78. Ian Book com- pleted 4 of 9 passes for 38 yards and the Irish also had 40 rushing yards, high- lighted by a 17-yard Book scramble. Notes: Both teams moved into the other team's territories on their first possessions, but USC's drive stalled at the Irish 43-yard line and Notre Dame's at the USC 37 … A sack by junior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Kora- moah helped end the Trojans' drive, while a holding call on the Irish hurt theirs … Notre Dame's three posses- sions began from its own 20-, 20- and 13-yard lines … Junior running back Jafar Armstrong made his first appear- ance since the season opener at Louis- ville Sept. 2, when he suffered an ab- dominal injury that required surgery. SECOND QUARTER: NOTRE DAME, 17-3 Top Moment: Trailing 3-0 and backed up at its 3-yard line, Notre Dame marched 97 yards on nine plays in 2:32, culminated by a 10- yard touchdown pass from Book to junior tight end Cole Kmet on a crossing route at the 8:37 mark. On third-and-seven from the Irish 6-yard line, Book completed a nine- RUN FOR THE MONEY The offensive line and Tony Jones Jr. lead power attack to hold off USC, 30-27 Senior quarterback Ian Book finished a modest 17-of-32 passing for 165 yards with one touch- down, but helped the Irish ground game with 12 carries for 49 yards and the game-clinching touchdown. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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