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.