Nov. 26, 2016
LOS ANGELES -- The University of Notre Dame (4-8) football team struggled to keep up with No. 12 USC (9-3), dropping its season finale, 45-27, on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Notre Dame held a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, but USC quickly regained a 10-7 lead and did not trail for the remaining three-plus quarters. The Irish were within 10 points in the third quarter, but Notre Dame's two turnovers proved to be too much to overcome on the road against a top-15 opponent.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
After a USC field goal on its opening possession gave the Trojans an early 3-0 lead, the Irish immediately responded. Sophomore running back Josh Adams broke a 74-yard carry on Notre Dame's first offensive play from scrimmage to give the Irish first and goal from the one-yard line. On the ensuing play junior quarterback DeShone Kizer called his own number on a quarterback sneak and found the end zone to put Notre Dame on top 7-3. The two-play drive marked the ninth time the Irish have scored a touchdown on nine opening drives this season.
On the Trojans' next possession the hosts marched down the field and scored on a seven play, 75-yard drive to retake the lead at 10-7. The drive was capped off by a 51-yard touchdown run from Ronald Jones II. The defenses from both teams then settled in, as the next four drives of the game ended in punts. The Irish then put a 70-yard drive together and had a chance to tie the game but a 37-yard field goal was no good and USC remained in front at 10-7.
With just under 90 seconds left in the first half, disaster struck for the Irish. After forcing a Notre Dame punt, the Trojans' Adoree' Jackson returned the punt for a touchdown, and two plays later, USC intercepted a Notre Dame pass and returned it for a touchdown to give the hosts a 24-7 lead at the half.
Notre Dame's offense brought the game within 10 points in the third quarter, recovering a fumble and stringing together a 10-play, 40-yard drive that resulted in a Kizer touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Chris Finke to make the score 24-14. The Trojans responded on their next possession as Jackson caught a 52-yard pass for a touchdown and a 31-14 lead.
Kizer again attempted to spark a comeback for the Irish, connecting on a 29-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Kevin Stepherson with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter. But USC immediately erased those plans, when Jackson returned the kickoff for 97 yards and a touchdown to give the Trojans a 38-21 advantage.
With 13:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, Kizer fumbled the ball and USC's Jack Jones recovered. USC capitalized on the Irish turnover with a JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown reception to extend its lead to 45-27.
Notre Dame added six points with one minute of the game remaining as senior quarterback Malik Zaire completed a 10-yard pass to senior running back Tarean Folston. The Irish fell short, losing 45-27 to the Trojans.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME:
Adams averaged 10.6 yards per rush in the game and led the Irish offense with 180 on the afternoon. Saturday's performance marks the eighth time the sophomore has recorded a 100-yard rushing game in his career and the fourth time this season. Adams continues to supply big plays for the offense, as his 74-yard run in the first quarter is his fifth career run of 60-plus yards.
Defense: Julian Love - 9 tackles (7 solo), forced fumble
The freshman cornerback forced a USC fumble in the opening drive of the third quarter, which sparked a 10-play, 40-yard touchdown drive by the Irish. Love finished the game with nine tackles, including seven solo tackles.
NOTRE DAME STAT OF THE GAME:
Passing yards: 254 (6.5 yards per reception)
Notre Dame passed the ball for 254 yards, going 21-39 and averaging 6.5 yards per catch on Saturday. The Irish totaled 408 yards of offense and surpassed the Trojans (205) in passing yards. Kizer finished with 220 yards and two touchdowns, while Zaire tallied three passes for an additional 30 yards and a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
NOTES OF THE GAME:
Notre Dame found the endzone on its first drive of the game for the eighth time in 12 games. In an additional two games, Notre Dame scored a touchdown on its second drive.
USC's field goal on the first drive of the game marked just the second time this season the Irish did not score first. The only other game Notre Dame's opponent scored first was at North Carolina State when the Wolfpack kicked a first-quarter field goal in the deluge of Hurricane Matthew.
Notre Dame's Kizer recorded at least one touchdown on the ground and one through the air for the 13th game of his career.