Saturday evening under the lights was the test for Brian Kelly and his 13th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish as #11 Southern Cal came in sporting a 6-1 record. Both teams were looking to move up in the rankings and their shot at the College Football Playoff in January and bragging rights to hoist the Jeweled Shillelagh trophy.
Kelly’s squad jumped out to an early 7-0 lead as linebacker Te’Von Coney, taking the place of an injured Greer Martini in the starting lineup, dashed in the backfield on the first play from scrimmage and got a strip sack of USC quarterback Sam Darnold. That play set up quarterback Brandon Wimbush connecting with wide receiver Equanimous St. Brown for a 26 yard score just three plays later.
“The turnovers were key for us in the first half and being opportunistic, which really we’ve been all year offensively,” Kelly stated.
The running game, led by Josh Adams and his 191 yards on 19 carries and 3 TD’s put up 28 points in the first half for a 28-0 halftime lead. The Irish offense amassed 377 yards on the ground as Wimbush added 106 yards rushing and 2 TDs, his first game back after missing the North Carolina game due to an ankle injury. Wimbush completed 9 of his 19 passes for 120 yards and 2 TD’s and zero interceptions.
The Irish defense played lights out all night as they forced 3 turnovers, including the fumble and an interception from Darnold. They clamped down on the USC run game and held them to just 76 yards rushing and -4 in the first half.
Darnold completed 20 of 29 passes for 229 and 2 TDs and 1 interception on the night and it was the the defense who received the praise from Wimbush. “When they take away the ball, you just get so excited, and (offensive coordinator Chip) Long wants to be aggressive and call a play, usually,” said Wimbush.
As of this writing the Irish have moved up the national rankings to #9 as they look ahead to a home showdown this Saturday afternoon against the now #14 ranked North Carolina State.
– Brandon Wimbush now has 10 rushing TDs on the season, equaling the the single season record held by DeShone Kizer in 2015.
– The Irish defense has held all 7 opponents on the year to 20 points or less and has forced an opposing turnover or punt on the first defensive series in all seven games.
– Josh Adams scored a TD from 84 yards out toward the end of the third quarter, marking the 7th time this season he has a rushing attempt for 59 yards or more.
– The Irish had a pair of players, Adams (191) and Wimbush (106) gain 100 or more yards rushing in the same game for the 4th time this season. From 2002-2016, Notre Dame had a total of 5 games with two 100 yard rushers.
– Adams now ranks sixth all time in rushing yards at Notre Dame. He has 2,735 career yards.