Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Holds Off USC Rally for 31-16 Win

Kyren Williams Delivers Strongest Effort of Year and Irish Pass Rush Shines

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.

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  1. two Suggestions:
    Defense: End the 3 man rush of a prevent defense

    Offense: start Buchner, w/ Coan in relief

    The above will result in blowout wins rest of the way!!

  2. Best offensive performance to date……but 31 points against that defense is still terrible.
    There are a good 6-8 teams that are objectively better, more complete teams than ND…..full stop.

    But there are also another 6 or 10 with just the offensive fire power to scorch a lot of opponents.
    Defense might win championships, but 50 points will beat ND in a bowl.

    1. You’re being too generous, “david”!

      There are a lot more teams that are better and/or more complete than this team. I’d say just about everybody in the top 15 is at least as good if not better than ND right now.

  3. Most of Kyren’s rushing yards were made by Kyren’s amazing balance and relentless efforts, but very good pass protection by OL. Has the OL finally arrived, or is SCs DL that bad? Stay tuned.
    The ND D’ front seven, especially the DL with Foskey, MTA, Jason Ademilola, Hinish, continue to impress, but how about a little more love for the other Ademilola, Justin. #9 was around the ball seemingly every play he was in. The Ademilolas, a.k.a. D-Men Twins, have developed into key DL dominant pieces. And how about #2 D. Brown stepping in against SC’s world-class athletes after Hamilton’s injury! Impressed w/ Kyren and Coan, with the potential continuing to flash w/ Buchner. And a shout out for that goal line block by #24 Etime for Kyren; made me recall Tremble.
    Where is Jordan Bothelo ? Checking out the portal as a transfer I suspect.
    Big test for pass D’ next week vs. Howell minus Hamilton, who looks doubtful.
    The key will be NDs O’ scoring early and often against NCs questionable D’.

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