Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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26 DECEMBER 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 'GRITTY' IRISH BATTLE BACK AFTER FALLING BEHIND Despite creating a pair of turn- overs, the Notre Dame defense strug- gled in the first half against USC. The Fighting Irish allowed a season- high 289 total yards to the Trojans in the first 30 minutes, highlighted by freshman quarterback JT Daniels' 26- of-31 passing for 244 yards. Daniels connected on 16 throws in the first quarter alone — the most completions in the opening 15 min- utes by a signal-caller in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season. USC's early success moving the ball produced a 10-0 lead — the largest deficit of the season for the Irish. The Trojans maintained a 10-7 halftime advantage, marking just the second time this season Notre Dame trailed at the break (the Irish also faced a 7-6 deficit against Pittsburgh Oct. 13). In the second half, Notre Dame clamped down defensively, holding USC to 154 total yards with 60 of those coming on the Trojans' final touchdown drive after they fell be- hind 24-10. The Irish limited Dan- iels to 11-of-20 passing for 105 yards and sacked him twice in the final 30 minutes. "We made some adjustments, and I thought we really got the game back in our hands in the second half," head coach Brian Kelly said. "We turned the tide and the flow of the game and really had a number of op- portunities to extend [the lead]." The Irish scored 24 consecutive points, including 17 in the final 30 minutes to put away the Trojans. They capped their run with junior quarterback Ian Book's 51-yard touchdown toss to junior running back Tony Jones Jr. with 3:09 to go in the game. "We didn't finish off drives. It was a problem the last couple weeks," Kelly said. "… But I'm very, very happy and pleased with our guys, who were just gritty today." Each game can bring a new set of challenges and adversity, and the matchup with archrival USC in Los Angeles was no different for the Irish. "We've had different games each week and played really well and dominated our opponent," Kelly stated. "This game our guys needed to have a sustained effort for four quarters and had to be gritty, and they had that today." IRISH OFFENSE GETS JOB DONE AFTER SLOW START Style points were in shortage, but the Fighting Irish offense completed the task at hand when necessary. Notre Dame was almost held score- less in the opening half against USC for the first time all season before junior quarterback Ian Book found senior wide receiver Chris Finke for a 24-yard score with 2:20 remaining in the second quarter. Up 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame faced two critical third downs to keep the Trojans from hav- ing another opportunity to tie the game up at 17 in the closing minutes. On third-and-12 from the Irish's 28- yard line, Book found a huge open- ing on the left side of the field and scampered for 16 yards to keep the chains moving. Two plays later, a similar situation arose. Facing a third-and-five from the Notre Dame 49-yard line, Book did not waver in the face of pressure and found junior running back Tony Jones Jr. for the 51-yard score to es- sentially secure the win for the Irish. "They brought a lot of pressure," USC GAME NOTES BY COREY BODDEN After allowing USC freshman quarterback JT Daniels to connect on 26 of 31 passes for 244 yards in the first half, the Irish recorded a pair of sacks — including this one by senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in the fourth quarter — and limited him to 11-of-20 passing for 105 yards in the final 30 minutes. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • The Irish now have won three of the last five games against the Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is the first time the program has accomplished the feat since 1988-96. • Notre Dame surpassed 450 yards of total offense for the seventh time this season, gaining 473 yards against USC. The Irish outgained nine of their 12 opponents during the regular season, including each of the last six foes. • Senior running back Dexter Williams scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season early in the third quarter, rumbling 52 yards for a go-ahead Notre Dame score. It was Williams' seventh touchdown run in excess of 30 yards this season and third of at least 50 yards. • Williams also gained more yards receiving (career highs with 54 yards on five catches) than he had over his first seven games this season combined (50 yards on eight grabs). • Notre Dame finished the regular season outscoring opponents 112-33 in the opening quarter and 103-45 in the third quarter.

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