No. 13 Notre Dame runs over No. 11 USC

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly scrawled a note to himself before Saturday's game against USC, writing that anything but a decisive win against a longtime rival would be a disappointment.

Kelly sensed that superb preparation, both physical and mental, had steered the No. 13 Fighting Irish to such a place. To that end, Notre Dame's 49-14 rout of the No. 11 Trojans was on a card in Kelly's locker room.

"I thought we would do well tonight," Kelly said, "and our kids performed extremely well, and to the level I thought we could play at."

Running back Josh Adams and quarterback Brandon Wimbush led another impressive rushing attack to boost Notre Dame (6-1) past USC (6-2).

Adams (19 carries, 191 yards) and Wimbush (14 carries, 106 yards) combined for five touchdowns. It marked the fourth time this season Notre Dame has had multiple players rush for 100 yards or more.

In the previous 15 seasons before 2017, the Fighting Irish had multiple 100-yard rushers just five times.

An opportunistic defense helped put the offense in motion.

Notre Dame surged to a 28-0 halftime lead by converting three USC turnovers into touchdowns. The only other time the Fighting Irish enjoyed a wider halftime cushion on their longtime rival was 1966, when Notre Dame turned a 31-0 edge at intermission into a 51-0 victory.

"Obviously, it was a huge win for the entire team," Wimbush said. "All three phases of the ball did a really good job of executing and used the two weeks that we had to prepare to our advantage."

Wimbush missed Notre Dame's most recent game, an Oct. 7 road win at North Carolina, with an injury to his right foot. Reuniting with Adams provided Notre Dame with plenty of energy while giving the Trojans fits.

Studying film was one thing, but defending the duo was another.

"To see them live," Trojans coach Clay Helton said, "they were a terrific combination."

Notre Dame gashed USC for 377 yards on the ground, well above the Trojans' defensive average of 146.7 rushing yards allowed entering the game. The Fighting Irish outgained USC 497-336 overall, and the Trojans had just 76 yards on the ground.

"We've got to come out faster," Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith said. "And that's a whole team goal."

Notre Dame junior linebacker Te'von Coney recorded a sack, forced a fumble and recovered the fumble on the Trojans' first offensive play, swarming USC quarterback Sam Darnold as he tried to corral a high snap. The Fighting Irish capitalized on the turnover just three plays later, with Wimbush connecting with Equanimeous St. Brown for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 12:45 left in the first quarter.

One of St. Brown's younger brothers, Amon-Ra, witnessed the bedlam amid the crowd of 77,622 while visiting campus as a heralded prep wide receiver recruit.

The press box seating chart included NFL general managers Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts), Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills), Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears) and Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans) on a list that featured representatives from nine other NFL clubs.

"It was awesome," Fighting Irish left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "The fans brought it, and we showed it on the field all night long."

USC avoided a shutout when Darnold found Steve Mitchell for a 5-yard scoring pass on the opening possession of the third quarter. Darnold hit Deonta Burnett for a 16-yard touchdown pass later in the quarter, but Notre Dame's ground game ultimately rendered those responses moot.

Darnold completed 20 of 28 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception before giving way to reserve Matt Fink for much of the fourth quarter.

Wimbush finished 9-of-19 passing with two touchdowns, and also was relieved down the stretch.

Kelly admitted his delight in Notre Dame reclaiming the jeweled shillelagh trophy awarded to the winner of the annual game against the Trojans, but added it was "not the crown jewel for us."

"We want more," Kelly said. "We want our guys to be unique, and so there's more out there for them."

NOTES: Notre Dame and USC met as ranked opponents for the first time since 2009. ... The Fighting Irish have forced opponents into turnovers or punts on the opening defensive series in each of their seven games. ... USC RT Chuma Edoga started and played in the game after missing the Trojans' previous two contests with a high ankle sprain. ... Trojans CB Iman Marshall left the game in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury.

Updated October 22, 2017

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