SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Kyren Williams rushed for two short touchdowns and a season-high 138 yards on 25 carries and No. 13 Notre Dame withstood Southern California’s fourth-quarter rally for a 31-16 victory Saturday night.
Williams scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter to help coach Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish (6-1) to a 17-3 halftime lead. He then had a 1-yard run late in the third quarter to put the Irish up 24-3 en route to their fourth straight victory in the 92-game series.
“Kyren ran with an attitude,” Kelly said. “We needed to see our offense mature, and tonight the offense began to come together the way we wanted. We played faster. We put Jack (Coan) in position where the ball came out quick. It gave us the kind of offensive flow we’re looking for.”
Grad quarterback Coan completed 20 of 28 passes for 189 yards and one TD, a 4-yard scoring pass to Avery Davis that put the Irish up 7-0 in the first quarter. Jonathan Doerer had a 21-yard field goal in the second quarter. Freshman Tyler Buchner scored on a 3-yard run with 4:52 remaining to close out the Irish scoring.
USC junior quarterback Kedon Slovis and 6-foot-5 junior wide receiver Drake London kept interim coach Donte Williams’ Trojans (3-4) in it.
“I don’t feel like we lost the game,” Williams said. “I feel like we ran out of time. If we had another quarter … We made way too many mistakes. We all made mistakes, the whole team, we took turns making them.”
Slovis connected on 27 of 37 passes for 299 yards, 15 of the completions to London for 171 yards. London has 79 receptions for 1,003 yards this season. The Trojans outgained the Irish 424 yards to 383, but Slovis did not throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted once.
The Irish played the final three quarters without junior All-America free safety Kyle Hamilton, who injured his right knee trying to defend London.
Keaontay Ingram (4 yards) and Darwin Barlow (3 yards) had short touchdown runs for USC early in the fourth quarter to close the Trojans’ deficit to 24-16.
It was Notre Dame’s second straight victory and first at home since now No. 2 Cincinnati ended a 26-game winning streak for the Irish at home with a 24-13 victory on Oct. 2. It was Notre Dame’s 50th victory over USC and improved Kelly’s record to 8-3 against the Trojans since his arrival in 2010. They have come against four USC coaches — Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Clay Helton and Helton’s successor Williams.
USC: The Trojans targeted 6-foot-5 junior wide receiver London 12 times in the first half and he caught nine passes for 109 of Slovis’ 138 yards on 13-of-18 passing. But a 10-play, 52-yard drive at the end of the first half came up empty when USC couldn’t stop the clock from running out after reaching the Irish 25.
Notre Dame: The Irish played much of the game without Hamilton, who injured his right knee in the first quarter after a 29-yard Slovis-to-London pass completion to the Irish 13 two plays before the first quarter ended. Hamilton, who has three interceptions this season, did not return.
Notre Dame could move up after both No. 7 Penn State and No. 8 Oklahoma State lost.
USC: It’s Homecoming for the Trojans on Saturday against Pacific-12 South opponent 0-7 Arizona.
Notre Dame: Irish play second of three straight home games Saturday night against 4-3 North Carolina.