Some nervous fourth-quarter moments eventually faded away for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night as they picked up a 31-16 win over the Southern Cal Trojans. The Irish seemingly had the game in hand entering the final period, Then, they watchied the Trojans make a determined effort to mount a comeback, getting within eight points with just under nine minutes to go in the game
The victory improved the Irish record to 6-1 on the year and allows them to remain as a viable possibility for a college football playoff berth. The victory also gets started a new home winning streak.
Some key aspects of Saturday night’s victory included:
Moving Things Along
Notre Dame’s offense managed to rack up 220 yards and 17 points during the first half. The latter total could have had an additional seven points, but a missed field goal and an inability to fully exploit a key turnover resulted in just one field goal. The errant three-pointer came after the Irish moved 74 yards on 13 plays, only to come away with nothing.
The two first-half touchdowns for Notre Dame were equally methodical marches, though with clear payoffs on the scoreboard. The first of those scores came with a two-play cameo from Tyler Buchner at quarterback and culminated with an Avery Davis touchdown grab. The second tally got a major push from Lorenzo Styles Jr., whose two catches matched his season output in that category.
First Half Heat
The Notre Dame pass rush has been effective over much of the 2021 campaign and made their presence felt early, with Jayson Ademilola delivering a sack on the Trojans’ first play. On their next series, USC came close to losing the ball in the Irish red zone when Isaiah Foskey’s furious rush forced a fumble that Southern Cal managed to recover.
On that same drive, the Trojans’ pass attempt on third-and-eight turned to disaster when Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa rushed in and blocked Kedon Slovis’ pass that was then picked off by Bo Bauer. By the time Bauer finished running, he returned the ball 79 yards to the Trojan four-yard line. Unfortunately, Notre Dame only managed a single yard and ended up settling for the field goal.
A Nothing Sandwich
Southern Cal’s would-be comeback in the final quarter might have truly made Notre Dame fans truly sweat in the chilly weather. Instead, the Trojans managed to watch two chances at points disappear on each side of halftime when a pair of 10-play drives resulted in zero points.
After getting into Irish territory in the final minute of the second quarter, Southern Cal watched the final seconds tick away before getting a playoff. After the break, they then had first down at the Notre Dame 25 before stalling out with a trio of incomplete passes. A 42-yard missed field goal then capped the aggravation.
Kyren Williams in the Spotlight
During the first seven games of this season, Kyren Williams had offered only hints that he was ready to deliver the same level of output he did in 2020. Against Southern Cal, he managed to break the 100-yard threshold for the first time this year. He finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, along with six catches for 42 yards.
Williams’ longest run of the night was the key play of the scoring drive that gave Notre Dame a 24-3 advantage. Then, with the Trojans making a concerted effort to come back, he gained 36 yards on six carries to chew up valuable clock time and set up the final Irish score.
Making Penalties Painful
When the game ended, Southern Cal had been flagged eight times for 65 yards, with a number of those penalties displaying a lack of discipline. Six of them came in the second half, including a pair of pass interference calls and having 12 men on the field.
The most crushing of these self-inflicted wounds came first on an unsportsmanlike conduct flag that put the Irish in the red zone. That was followed later by a holding call that wiped out a Trojan first down and a Slovis pass that was thrown beyond the line of scrimmage.
Next Up for Notre Dame Football
Notre Dame remains at home next week for another prime time clash, this one against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The game will mark the first time since 1966 that the two schools have met on the gridiron in consecutive years. The matchup will be the 22nd time they’ve met, with Notre Dame dominating the series with a 19-2 mark. Last year, the Irish clamped down on the explosive North Carolina offense after a back-and-forth opening quarter and picked up a 31-17 victory, thanks to the efforts of Kyren Williams and Javon McKinley.