The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football got off to a slow start but both USC and No. 9 Notre Dame seemed to find their footing on both sides of the ball as things wore on before the Irish took a 17-3 lead into the break at halftime.
Leading the way was not surprisingly Ian Book and the ND passing attack, which saw the quarterback throw for 93 yards and a nifty touchdown strike to his new favorite target — tight end Cole Kemet.
That wouldn’t be the only big play for the home side under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus though, as the team got the ball in the hands of perhaps their fastest player on an end around and let Braden Lenzy do the rest for a 51 yard rushing score to continue the onslaught in the second quarter.
Not to be outdone, Tony Jones Jr. rushed for 120 yards and Book added 18 more on the ground as ND averaged a robust 11.5 yards per carry in the first half.
While the defensive issues for the Trojans were quite apparent as the game went on, Clay Helton’s embattled squad was pretty solid on the offensive end despite the lack of points. They came close to the midfield logo on nearly every drive but sustaining such efforts proved to be tougher than it looked. Making his first start in nearly three weeks, Kedon Slovis didn’t completely rattled by the environment in throwing for 74 yards on 17 attempts, but did take three sacks. The hard-running of Indiana native Markese Stepp (39 yards) was also pretty notable but with the score where it is, it seems unlikely he’ll get a lot more carries down the stretch.
It goes without saying that Helton needs a win in this one badly to keep his job but Notre Dame is not cooperating in the matter so far.