The backfield battery of DeShone Kizer and C.J. Prosise isn’t what Brian Kelly had in mind two months ago. In fact, if you told him then what you know now, he’d probably shudder and curse under his breath. But, unbeknownst to him, to you, and probably to Kizer and Prosise themselves, the unlikely duo carried Notre Dame to another win in what’s proving to be a successful season in spite of some tremendous odds.
Kizer, the previously untested freshman, hit 15-of-24 passes for 227 yards (plus 47 rushing yards) and two touchdowns and no interceptions and Prosise, the former wide receiver, continued his hey-don’t-you-forget-me Heisman campaign by rushing 19 times for 143 yards and two more scores to lead No. 14 Notre Dame to a 41-31 win over USC on Saturday night in South Bend.
The game was a back-and-forth affair that was essentially three blowouts rolled into one: Notre Dame jumped out to a 24-10 lead through the six minute mark of the second quarter, followed by USC boasting a 21-0 run through the end of the second quarter and the completion of the third, only to see Notre Dame wrestle back control with a 17-0 fourth quarter.
USC opened the scoring with a three-yard run by Cody Kessler, only to see Notre Dame tie the game one play later on a 75-yard throw from Kizer to Will Fuller. Prosise put Notre Dame on top 14-10 with a 25-yard scoring dash, and Amir Carlisle added to the lead by returning a blocked punt five yards for a touchdown at the 5:04 mark of the first quarter.
Typical of a Notre Dame defense the week after facing Navy, the Irish were susceptible to allowing big plays, and that showed in the second quarter as Jalen Greene nailed JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 75-yard double pass for a touchdown, and Adoree’ Jackson scored from 83 yards out on a pass from Kessler.
Kessler (365 yards on 30-of-46 passing) hit tight end Taylor McNamara for a four-yard score at the 9:40 mark of the third quarter to give USC a 31-24 lead, but Brian VanGorder‘s unit closed the door from there.
Prosise tied the game with a six-yard run 40 seconds into the fourth quarter, and Kizer gave the Irish the lead for good when he found Corey Robinson for a diving touchdown catch with 9:06 remaining.
Justin Yoon put the game away with a 32-yard field goal with 5:39 to play.
USC played its first game under interim head coach Clay Helton following Steve Sarkisian‘s firing on Monday. USC athletics director Pat Haden collapsed on the sideline before the game, but reports indicated he was in good health.
USC outgained Notre Dame 590-476 on the evening.
After losing eight in a row from 2002-09, Notre Dame has now won four of the past six and three of the last four. The Irish hold the all-time lead 46-35-5 in a series that dates back to 1926.
USC (3-3) has now lost two in a row and three of its past four – and returns to Los Angeles to face No. 4 Utah on Saturday. Notre Dame (6-1) kept its Playoff hopes alive for another two weeks; the Irish will take next week off before a suddenly important trip to undefeated Temple on Oct. 31.