SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Brandon Wimbush passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more, Josh Adams added three touchdown runs and No. 13 Notre Dame took advantage of three turnovers by No. 11 Southern California to win 49-14 on Saturday night.
The Fighting Irish (6-1) turned all three USC turnovers into touchdowns, giving them their first victory against USC (6-2) when the Trojans were ranked since a 38-10 victory in 1995. The turnovers came on a fumble and interception by Sam Darnold and a dropped punt by Jack Jones as Notre Dame posted a surprisingly easy victory in this long and storied series that dates to 1926, opening up a 28-0 lead at the half.
“The turnovers were key for us in the first half and being opportunistic, which really we’ve been all year offensively,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
Adams had an 84-yard touchdown run and finished with 191 yards on 19 carries. Wimbush ran for 106 yards on 14 carries as the Irish amassed 377 yards on the ground.
It was the fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season for Adams, quickest to 2,000 rushing yards in Notre Dame history at 316 carries. It took George Gipp 323 carries to set the mark. It was the third 100-yard rushing game for Wimbush, who was coming back from missing a game with an injured right foot.
Wimbush still wasn’t sharp passing, completing 9 of 19 passes for 120 yards. But he came up with key passes when needed.
Linebacker Te’Von Coney, starting because Greer Martini injured his knee during the bye week, got the Irish going on a strip sack of Darnold on USC’s first play from scrimmage after Darnold bobbled the snap. Wimbush threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown three plays later.
Darnold completed 20 of 29 passes, but could not overcome the turnovers or USC being held to 76 yards rushing, including minus-4 in the first half. He threw two touchdown passes, the first cutting Notre Dame’s lead to 28-7.
“I thought Notre Dame was really well prepared. I thought they played an excellent game. We helped them by mistakes,” USC coach Clay Helton said.
Kelly said beating a rival and recapturing the Jeweled Shillelagh trophy were big, but said he expects the Irish to keep playing at this level.
“We want to be unique. Unique means this is not the crown jewel for us. We want more. This was a great victory, we’re excited about the win, beating a very good USC team, but our guys want to be unique. So there’s more out there for them.”
USC: The Trojans continue to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers, with 19 on the season. Darnold is responsible for all but three. USC can still win the Pac-12 title, but a playoff berth appears nearly impossible.
“Got a sad football team in there right now. We’ll live and learn from this,” Helton said.
Notre Dame: The Irish, just a season removed from an embarrassing 4-8 season, showed they deserve to be back in the national discussion and kept alive their hopes of ending a 29-year title drought.
USC: A second straight loss will drop the Trojans, the question is whether the blowout loss will drop them all the way out.
Notre Dame: The Irish, whose only loss was by a point to No. 3 Georgia, have a chance to move into the top 10.
The Irish have held their opponent to 20 points or less in every game this season as USC running back Ronald Jones II’s streak of 13 straight games with a touchdown came to an end.
USC: The Trojans play at Arizona State.
Notre Dame: The Irish face another ranked opponent in No. 16 North Carolina State.