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Notre Dame Football

Irish Punish 'Tired' Trojans

October 13, 2019

Fourteen plays. Two passes.

And 12 plays of will-imposing, timely and unrelenting runs. The result? A 14-play, 75-yard and six-minute, 54-second drive that provided the decisive touchdown --- on the legs of Ian Book, no less --- in No. 9 Notre Dame’s 30-27 win against rival USC here Saturday inside Notre Dame Stadium.

“You always want the ball,” Irish right tackle Robert Hainsey said. “You don’t want to have to put the defense on the field and get another stop. Give us the ball and we know that we can go dominate physically and do our jobs and run the plays called, and Coach (Chip) Long called great plays, and we just kept rolling and rolling.

“We had the momentum going after we started rolling a little bit and knew that if we kept going, we’d be fine.”

The Irish proved more than merely fine on the ground, where they gnawed through the Trojans’ defense to the tune of 308 yards on 48 attempts --- both season-bests, as was their 80 offensive snaps.

“You know, I think -- I really felt all 11 guys were truly confident we were going to go down and score,” said Book, who closed with net 49 rushing yards on a dozen attempts. “I could feel the buzz, I could feel the energy, and I was just confident as I could be that we were going to be in the right play calls, and we just had to go out there and do it, and that's what we did.”

Thing is, Notre Dame’s players likewise knew as the game progressed the exact impact their ground-based bludgeoning was having on USC.

“So during the game, they started showing that they were tired and stuff and they were kind of beat up a little bit,” said tailback Tony Jones Jr., who established a new career-high with 176 yards on 25 carries. “So we just kept pounding the rock at them and then the hole just started opening up and Book seen one and took off and scored.”

Ah, yes. Book’s touchdown. It came after the Irish had runs of 3, 0, 9, 1, 13, 3, 7, -1, 17, 5 and finally 8, when Book punctuated the win in a game Notre Dame led for its final 38:37.

“Well, that’s how you have to win games,” coach Brian Kelly said of the march, Notre Dame’s longest this season by a number of plays. “Whatever means necessary to win a football game. Whether it’s throwing the football or running the football, you have to be equally effective. They were playing a two-deep zone and it was important that we ran the football in that situation. So our offensive line, tight ends, did a great job blocking. Tony Jones was outstanding again in the fourth quarter just like he was against Virginia.”

Eating off precious time after USC’s offense found its footing for 280 of its 426 yards after the half also was imperative for the Irish offense.

“Again, taking a lot of time off the clock,” Kelly said. “I thought Chip did a really good job of being measured in terms of not wanting to push tempo but use clock in that situation.

“Just a well-orchestrated drive that ate a lot of clock because obviously, they had that quick touchdown. It was important from my perspective that we take some time that drive.”

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