SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Kyren Williams and No. 13 Notre Dame’s offensive line took a big step forward Saturday night, withstanding Southern California’s fourth-quarter rally for a 31-16 victory.
With fellow running back Chris Tyree sidelined by turf toe, Williams had two short touchdown runs and a season-high 138 yards on 25 carries for coach Brian Kelly’s 6-1 team, and after the game saluted his offensive linemen for his performance.
“Shoutout to the O-linemen for working hard and making it possible,” Williams said about the rebuilt line that lost four starters from last season. “I just had to have the mindset to dominate and not be stopped by anybody.”
Williams, a preseason Associated Press All-American who rushed for 1,175 yards last season, entered Saturday’s game with just 370 yards. He also gained another 42 yards with a team-high six receptions.
Williams scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter while helping the Irish to a 17-3 halftime lead and then added 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 that was just pervasive throughout the entire offense.,” 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’ve been looking for.”
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 after the Trojans (3-4) had trimmed the Irish lead to 24-16 early in the fourth quarter on short touchdown runs by Keaontay Ingram (4 yards) and Darwin Barlow (3 yards).
USC junior quarterback Kedon Slovis and 6-foot-5 junior wide receiver Drake London kept interim coach Donte Williams’ Trojans in it.
“I don’t feel like we lost the game,” Williams said. “I feel like we ran out of time.”
Slovis connected on 27 of 37 passes for 299 yards, 15 of the completions to London for 171 yards, pushing him to 1,003 yards this season on 79 receptions. The Trojans outgained the Irish 424 yards to 383, but Slovis did not throw a touchdown pass, was intercepted once, was sacked three times and fumbled after the last one.
The Irish played the final three quarters without junior All-America free safety Kyle Hamilton, who injured his right knee trying to defend London.
It was Notre Dame’s second straight victory and first at home since now No. 2 Cincinnati ended a 26-game home winning streak for the Irish 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.
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. USC coach Williams was clearly disappointed with the way his Trojans ended the half.
“We made way too many mistakes,” Williams said. “We all made mistakes, the whole team, we took turns making them. If we get the same mistakes from the same players, we gotta put different players on the field.”
Williams was pleased with the running efforts of Ingram, who rushed for 138 yards on 24 carries.
“He made some guys miss,” Williams said. “That’s a big-time back.”
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. Kelly indicated afterward that Hamilton had sustained a fat pad impingement to his right knee but should be fine going forward.
“His prognosis is really good,” Kelly said before saluting his replacement, senior DJ Brown. “He stepped in for Kyle Hamilton and does a really fine job for us. It’s time we start recognizing he’s a really solid football player.”
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.
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