SOUTH BEND – From 2002 to 2009, Notre Dame dropped eight straight games to USC. Since Brian Kelly took over as coach in 2010, however, the Irish have had the upper hand in one of college football's best rivalries.
No. 9 Notre Dame raced out to a 17-point third-quarter lead and held on late to beat the Trojans 30-27 Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 77,622 at Notre Dame Stadium. It was Notre Dame's seventh win in 10 tries against the Trojans under Kelly and third in a row.
Tony Jones Jr. had a career night for the Irish, running for a career-best 176 yards on 25 carries. It was his third straight 100-yard performance and fourth of the season. The Irish finished with 308 yards on the ground, including a 51-yard touchdown run by wide receiver Braden Lenzy on an end-around in the second quarter.
The Irish had seen a 17-point lead shrink to just three when they took over on offense with 10 minutes remaining in the game. They sealed the victory with a devastating 14-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 6:54.
Notre Dame ran the ball 12 times on the clinching drive and the two biggest runs went to quarterback Ian Book: a 17-yard scramble for a first down on third-and-10 in USC territory and an 8-yard touchdown scamper on a designed keeper to make it a two-possession game with less than four minutes left.
USC answered with a 77-yard touchdown drive, capped by a rugged 2-yard Markese Stepp touchdown, on its final possession, but the Irish recovered an onside kick to seal the victory.
Notre Dame went into halftime ahead 17-3 and pushed its advantage to 20-3 early in the third quarter with a 52-yard Jonathan Doerer field goal. Doerer went 3 for 3 in the game, with all three kicks 43 yards or longer.
The Trojans struck back with a field goal and two touchdown drives as their potent passing game finally woke up. True freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis hit Amon-Ra St. Brown with a perfect throw for a 38-yard touchdown over the middle and then drew USC within 23-20 with a 5-yard fade to Tyler Vaughns early in the fourth quarter.
Note: Notre Dame got a commitment from four-star 2021 wide receiver Deion Colzie Saturday afternoon. Colzie is the No. 51 player nationally and the seventh-ranked receiver, per 247sports.com. The Athens, Georgia native joins a class that ranks No. 3 in the country.
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