Braden Lenzy

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USC fights, but No. 9 Notre Dame moves on to third rivalry win in a row

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We don’t yet know when the Clay Helton era at USC will officially end but we might be able to point to a chilly South Bend Saturday night in mid-October providing the final nail in the coffin for the embattled head coach.

The Trojans did their best to fight on against No. 9 Notre Dame but it was not enough in the end as the Irish held off the visitors from Southern California for a 30-27 win in the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football.

Veteran quarterback Ian Book continued to look calm and collected under center, throwing for 165 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 49 yards with a score on the ground. He picked up several key third down conversions down the stretch in the 4th quarter and helped open things up with intermediate passes to key a rather impressive rushing attack.

Tony Jones Jr. paced that effort with 176 yards though it was speedy wideout Braden Lenzy who had the best play of the game, taking an end around 51 yards to pay dirt in the second quarter to help break things open a bit. Cole Kemet was the top target through the air to nobody’s surprise with six catches, 61 yards and a nifty score in the first half.

USC did what they could to keep things interesting throughout. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, making his return to the starting lineup, didn’t seem phased by the big stage or cold conditions in throwing for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He formed quite the combination with fellow frosh (and Indiana native) Markese Stepp, who showed the natives at Notre Dame Stadium what they missed out on with 82 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Amon-Ra St.Brown was dangerous out of the slot with 112 yards plus a score at his older brother’s former home field as well.

Still, it wasn’t meant to be for the Trojans as they lost three straight in the series to the Irish for the first time since 1999-2001. Brian Kelly ran his record to 7-3 in the game as well as Notre Dame hits the off week with plenty of momentum before heading to Ann Arbor for their toughest remaining game at Michigan.

Not all is lost in 2019 for USC despite the hot seat talk surrounding their head coach though. The Trojans remain in contention in the Pac-12 South and still have the carrot of potentially reaching the Rose Bowl down the road. They’ll face surprising division leader Arizona next and then travel to Colorado after that.

No. 9 Notre Dame overcomes slow start to score comfortable halftime lead over rival USC

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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.