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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.

No. 10 Notre Dame forces five turnovers, eight sacks to push past No. 18 Virginia

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The halftime strategy session inside Notre Dame’s defensive locker room had to be pretty simple: stop Bryce Perkins. Virginia’s quarterback carried the visitors to a 17-14 halftime lead, completing 18-of-22 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns while the Cavaliers mustered all of minus-2 yards on the ground.

The message sunk in. No. 10 Notre Dame’s defense harassed Perkins to the tune of five second-half sacks, two interceptions and two fumbles, turning a 3-point deficit into a 35-20 win over No. 18 Virginia.

The first of those three second-half turnovers came at the 9:50 mark of the third quarter, when Jamir Jones sacked Perkins and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (Tua’s cousin) raced the ball 48 yards to the Virginia 7-yard line, setting up Tony Jones, Jr.’s 2-yard go-ahead touchdown, his second of the day.

Then, with 1:41 left in the third quarter, Julian Okwara sacked and stripped Perkins, which Adetokunbo Ogundeji scooped and scored from 23 yards out, giving the Irish a commanding 28-17 lead.

Finally, Alohi Gilman intercepted Perkins at Notre Dame’s 29 with 12:32 left in the third quarter, setting up Notre Dame’s offense to put the game away for good with a 5-play, 71-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a 30-yard Jones rush. Jones finished the game with 131 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

Perkins opened the game by orchestrating a 7-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that scored on a 6-yard toss to Joe Reed on third-and-goal. Notre Dame (3-1) then surged ahead 14-7 with touchdown drives on its first two opportunities, scoring on runs by Jones and C’Bo Flemister.

Virginia (4-1) then scored 10 straight, taking the lead on a 16-yard Perkins toss to Hasise Dubois with 43 seconds left in the first half. Bronco Mendenhall then capitalized on his team’s momentum by opening the second half with an onside kick, which the Wahoos recovered. That possession ended in a punt from Notre Dame’s 40, and another possession, which began after Notre Dame fumbled a punt return at its own 41 and the Cavs trailing 21-17, ended in a turnover on downs.

With Virginia trailing 35-20 with just under four minutes to play, Perkins erased any hopes of a comeback when he fired his second interception of the day to Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton. Perkins finished the game 30-of-43 for 334 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and three fumbles while being sacked eight times.

Late TD gives No. 18 Virginia halftime lead over No. 10 Notre Dame

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Bryce Perkins has been dealing through one half of action in South Bend, and as a result No. 18 Virginia holds a 17-14 halftime lead over No. 10 Notre Dame.

Virginia took the ball to open the game and rolled 69 yards in seven plays, scoring on 6-yard, third-and-goal toss from Perkins to Joe Reed. Notre Dame immediately answered, moving 75 yards in a more methodical 13 snaps, as Tony Jones, Jr. charged for a 5-yard rush.

Notre Dame’s defense made the first play of the game on the ensuing series when Julian Okwara sacked and stripped Perkins, then recovered the ball near midfield. The Irish needed only four plays, with the help of two Wahoo penalties, to go up 14-7 on an 11-yard C’Bo Flemister run near the end of the first quarter.

Virginia answered by notching a 32-yard Brian Delaney field goal, then posted its first stop of the game via a 47-yard Jonathan Doerer field goal that sliced wide left.

After an exchange of three-and-outs, Perkins tossed a pair of dimes to put Virginia back on top. The first 39-yard toss over the middle to Hasise Dubois that moved the ball from the Virginia 28-yard line to the Notre Dame 33, and the second was a 16-yard strike to Dubois in the corner of the end zone with 43 seconds left before halftime.

Perkins closed the half 18-of-22 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. He’s carried the Cavs’ offense, as Virginia has totaled 13 credited rushes for minus-2 yards.

Ian Book gives Notre Dame a late first half lead on Louisville, 21-14

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Notre Dame might be in for a tougher battle than the experts predicted. Notre Dame holds a lead at halftime in Louisville, but the Cardinals are not about to go away. A late fumble by the Cardinals (one play after Notre Dame fumbled, which was one play after Louisville had fumbled) allowed the Irish to take the lead with Ian Book (who was responsible for the fumble) taking off for an easy touchdown run. At halftime, Notre Dame leads Louisville 21-14.

Notre Dame looked like it had an offensive game plan that has been worked on for months to set the tone after their playoff elimination last season. Ian Book was perfect throwing the football and took advantage of a Louisville defender turning his back on him for a 37-yard gain on the ground on the first play from scrimmage. Jahmir Smith finished the 75-yard drive with a short three-yard touchdown run to give the Irish an early lead. But Louisville wasted no time in providing some energy for the blackout crowd. Jawon Pass picked up an 18-yard completion to Seth Dawkins and Javian Hawkins managed to find some yards on the ground on the ensuing possession. On 3rd and 12, Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara gave away five free yards with an offside penalty, and Pass took off for a 13-yard gain on the next snap. A 15-yard by Javian Hawkins a few plays later led to an eventual touchdown run by Pass to draw even at 7-7.

Notre Dame went three-and-out on their next series, and Louisville took the lead after that with a 12-play touchdown drive. Pass once again did the honors by running the ball into the endzone for the lead. This time it was a reversal of fortune, however, as the Irish were the ones to answer right away. An 11-yard run by Tony Jones evened the score at 14-14 later in the first quarter.

The second quarter saw the scoring slow down, with only the late score by the Irish putting the dent on the scoreboard.

If you need to put on a pot of coffee, now is the time. You may not want to miss the end of this game.