SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Running back Josh Adams and quarterback Brandon Wimbush led another impressive Notre Dame rushing attack on Saturday, sparking the No. 13 Fighting Irish to a 49-14 rout of No. 11 USC.
Adams (19 carries, 191 yards) and Wimbush (14 carries, 106 yards) combined for five touchdowns. With both Adams and Wimbush eclipsing the 100-yard mark, it marked the fourth time Notre Dame has had multiple players in that category this season.
In the previous 15 seasons before 2017, the Fighting Irish had multiple 100-yard rushers just five times.
Notre Dame (6-2) gashed USC (6-2) 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.
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.
USC avoided a shutout Saturday when quarterback Sam 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 later in the quarter, but Notre Dame’s ground game prowess 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-for-19 passing with two touchdowns, and also was relieved down the stretch.
Notre Dame junior linebacker Te’von Coney recorded a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on the Trojans’ first offensive play, swarming Darnold as he tried to corral a high snap.
The Fighting Irish capitalized on the turnover three plays later when Wimbush connected with Equanimeous St. Brown for a 26-yard touchdown with 12:45 left in the first quarter.
Wimbush collected his second touchdown pass a few minutes later, finding Kevin Stepherson for a 23-yard score to punctuate a 10-play, 79-yard drive that consumed 3:19 of clock time.
USC found itself in position to draw closer after that and began the second quarter with a second down on the Fighting Irish 7-yard line. But that promise soon faded when placekicker Chase McGrath missed a 27-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Before long, Trojans fans viewed it as more of the same. The quarter also featured a muffed Trojans punt return and a Darnold interception. Notre Dame converted both turnovers into touchdowns, first on a 3-yard Adams scoring run with 7:43 left in the second quarter and then on Wimbush’s 4-yard touchdown 3:49 later.
Notre Dame’s 28-0 lead at intermission doubled the largest halftime deficit the Trojans had faced all season.
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.