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Notre Dame Football

US-C you later: No. 13 Notre Dame rips Trojans, 31-16

October 23, 2021

At halftime Saturday night, his team up 17-3 against cross-country rival University of Southern California, Brian Kelly delivered an old-school football message:

“I told you what this was about on Monday,” Kelly said, per NBC cameras. “It's about being more physical. So if you want to let your guard down in the second half, you think you've got this, shame on you.

“You want to come out and dominate like a Notre Dame football team should against their rival, then show me that you can do that.”

Kelly sent an early third-quarter message – he had his offense stay on the field for a fourth-and-1 at the Trojans' 10.

Jack Coan plunged ahead two yards; two plays later, Kyren Williams barreled into the end zone for the second of his two rushing touchdowns.

Though USC later would cut the margin to eight, Notre Dame pulled away to a 31-16 win.

“It was better,” Kelly said of the Irish offense. “It's been sporadic; we played with more tempo, and I think Jack (Coan) needed that.

“I thought Tommy (Rees) did a good job early of getting that tempo established.”

Coan finished 20-for-28 for 189 yards, one touchdown – 4 yards to Avery Davis to open the game’s scoring – and one pick. Tyler Buchner was similarly efficient; the freshman change-of-pace quarterback rushed for 11 yards and a touchdown as well as completed both his pass attempts for 24 yards.

The Fighting Irish (6-1), winners of four in a row in the series for the first time under Kelly, did not yield a touchdown to USC (3-4) until the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

The Trojans possessed the ball nearly seven minutes less than the Irish, were just 7-for-15 on third downs and were left bewildered as Notre Dame punctuated the win with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that lapsed nearly four minutes off the clock and summarily answered USC's final score.

It wasn't all positive for the Fighting Irish (6-1), who saw All-American safety Kyle Hamilton exit the game injured before the end of the first quarter.

As he ranged to break up a pass along the home sideline, Hamilton planted awkwardly on the turf and bent back his right knee/leg at a sharp angle. He hobbled to the sideline with medical supervision and did not return.

“He pinched a pad on his knee,” Kelly said of Hamilton, whom Kelly indicated could potentially play next week against North Carolina. “There's no structural damage. The initial prognosis is really good.”

Notre Dame marched downfield on the game's opening possession, as it utilized a 13-play, 74-yard drive to set the tone – but failed to score when Jonathan Doerer's 36-yard attempt sailed wide right.

Doerer later connected from 21 yards to lift the Irish on top, 10-0, less than two minutes into the third quarter.

Yet that also was a squandered opportunity for Notre Dame, which saw Bo Bauer pick off a deflected Kedon Slovis pass and race 79 yards to the Trojans' 4-yard line.

“You know, it kind of goes black and you're trying to get into the end zone,” Bauer said, revisiting the pick. “It was like, 'Wow, I got caught.' Shoutout to him for getting me down.”

But the offense gained a meager yard, and Doerer hit the triple.

Nine of Slovis's first 12 completions went to Trojans stud Drake London, and London closed with 15 receptions for 171 yards.

For perspective, the remainder of the USC offense combined for a dozen catches and 128 yards, though the Irish did keep London out of the end zone.

USC got its fourth-quarter touchdowns from Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow.

Ingram matched Williams for game-high rushing honors with 138 yards.

Up next for Notre Dame is a third-straight prime-time game and second in a row inside Notre Dame Stadium, where the Irish have won 26 of their last 27 games, when North Carolina visits.

The Tar Heels, like USC, are set to enter that game coming off their open date, after defeating Miami 45-42 Oct. 16.

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