USC routs Notre Dame, 49-14, in regular-season finale

USC goes on a first-half scoring spree in 49-14 victory over long-time rival Notre Dame

USC left no doubt about its ability to finish in the regular-season finale.

A week after the Trojans were blown out by cross-town rival UCLA, they dominated long-time rival Notre Dame, 49-14, on Saturday at the Coliseum.

USC improved to 8-4 overall and 6-3 in the Pac-12 Conference.

Notre Dame fell to 7-5. 

Quarterback Cody Kessler completed a career-best 32 passes for 372 yards and six touchdowns -- more touchdowns than ever thrown against the Fighting Irish.

Nine receivers caught a pass and five scored a touchdown, led by Nelson Agholor's 12 catches for 120 yards. 

USC's defense was called soft against UCLA, but it showed up in force against the Fighting Irish.

Outside linebacker J.R. Tavai made 4.5 tackles for a loss, including 3.5 sacks. Safety Gerald Bowman helped end Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson's day early when he intercepted Golson in the second quarter.

Golson completed seven of 18 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown before he was replaced by Malik Zaire before halftime.

Zaire did not fair much better, completing nine of 20 passes for 170 yards. He rushed for an 11-yard touchdown.

 

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USC will takeover on its own 21-yard line. 

Walk-on senior Anthony Neyer is in at quarterback for the Trojans.

Walk-on tailback James Toland rushes five consecutive plays before Neyer keeps it for a first down.

That should run out the clock. 

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USC will start at its own 25-yard line.

Aundrey Walker is at right tackle, but the rest of the starters remain on the field - including Cody Kessler.

The USC sideline gets excited when Bryce Dixon catches a 12-yard pass. 

Kessler has thrown a career-best 32 completions.

Javorius Allen rushes two yards for a first down. Allen is on the verge of his seventh 100-yard rushing game. He has rushed for 94 yards in 17 carries.

Max Browne replaces Kessler at quarterback. 

Browne hands off to Justin Davis for three consecutive plays.

Fourth and three, Davis is stopped short of the first down.

Notre Dame will takeover on downs at its own 18-yard line.

Many backups in for USC on defense, including Cody Temple, Claude Pelon, Michael Hutchings, Chris Hawkins and Jonathan Lockett. 

Malik Zaire is aiming for the big play. He fires down field for Will Fuller, but the pass bounces off his fingertips.

Third and 10, Zaire completes an 11-yard pass to Ben Koyack. Leonard Williams was brought in on the third-down play.

Zaire completes a 40-yard pass to C.J. Prosis, who was eventually tackled by Hawkins.

Song girl tackled. She got leveled by Jonathan Lockett out of bounds. Ouch! 

Third and ten, Lockett with good coverage in the end zone to break up a touchdown pass. 

Exclamation point on this victory, J.R. Tavai and Scott Felix sack Zaire on fourth down.

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USC 49, Notre Dame 14 (2:48 left in the third quarter)

Notre Dame will start at its own 25-yard line.

The Fighting Irish is displaying no fight at all. The offense is stalling as USC's defense continues to swarm receivers and pressure Malik Zaire. 

Chris Hawkins is in at cornerback, Zaire completes a first-down pass to Will Fuller before Hawkins makes the tackle.

Greg Bryant rushes 16 yards. 

Just as I say Notre Dame really can't get it going, what do you know? They get something going.

The Fighting Irish get a generous spot for a first down after Zaire complete a five-yard pass to C.J. Prosise, which sets up a Bryant one-yard rush and Notre Dame touchdown.

USC's defensive line starters were on the sideline.

The extra point is good.

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USC 49, Notre Dame 7 (6:02 left in the third quarter)

USC will start at its own 30-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a 13-yard pass to JuJu Smith before Kessler quickly pitches to Justin Davis, who rushes for a yard.

Smith has caught four passes for 41 yards.

Third and one, but Damien Mama is called for a false start, which backs the Trojans up five yards.

Kessler scrambles and completes a first-down pass to Darreus Rogers. 

Rogers has caught two passes for 20 yards.

Nelson Agholor would have had an easy touchdown, but Kessler's pass is under thrown. 

Kessler completes an 11-yard pass to Steven Mitchell, who is leveled in his tracks - but he pops right up. 

Tailbacks get in on the touchdown action now, Justin Davis rushes for 16 yards and a touchdown.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.

Fans are heading toward the exits on this sunny Southern California afternoon -- this week, for the right reasons. 

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Cody Kessler's six touchdown passes are a record against Notre Dame. No team has ever thrown six against the Fighting Irish, according to USC sports information.

Notre Dame will start at its own 23-yard line.

Jonathan Lockett is in at cornerback for Adoree' Jackson, who is sideline because of concussion-like symptoms.

J.R. Tavai is having a great final Coliseum game, he's been in the face of Notre Dame quarterbacks all afternoon. 

Third and 11, Malik Zaire's pass falls incomplete, Lockett on the coverage. 

It is interesting that Lockett was inserted for Jackson, not redshirt-freshman Chris Hawkins. Hawkins started the first four games before he was replaced by Jackson.

Notre Dame punts.

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USC 42, Notre Dame 7 (11:19 left in the third quarter)

USC will start at its own 25-yard line.

Notre Dame's defense is still scrambling with USC's offense continuing at an up-tempo pace and the Trojans easily reach a first down. 

Cody Kessler completes a 13-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.

George Farmer catches his fourth pass, before Kessler goes back to Agholor for a first down.

Fourth and eight, Sarkisian is going for it and Kessler finds an open JuJu Smith for a 22-yard completion. 

First and goal, Kessler completes a nine-yard pass to Randall Telfer. 

Andre Heidari's extra point is good. 

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A few halftime stats:

USC quarterback Cody Kessler has completed 19 of 23 passes for 241 yards and five touchdowns. 

Seven receivers have caught a pass. 

George Farmer and Nelson Agholor both have 82 receiving yards. Farmer has caught three passes, Agholor eight.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed seven of 18 passes for 75 yards before he was replaced by Malik Zaire.

Zaire has completed three of six passes for 94 yards and rushed for a touchdown.

USC has 20 first downs, Notre Dame 11.

And the Trojans are keeping their penalties under control, they have three for 25 yards. 

Defensively, USC has an interception and a fumble recovery. 

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Notre Dame will start at its own 19-yard line.

Malik Zaire is back in at quarterback fo the Fighting Irish.

Third and two, Zaire fires through the USC secondary and completes 19-yard pass to Corey Robinson.

Zaire has no fear, throwing deep on back-to-back plays, but both fall incomplete.

Third and 10, Zaire completes a 26-yard pass to Will Fuller in front of Adoree' Jackson.

First and 10 at USC's 28-yard line.

Third down, great coverage by Adoree' Jackson on Will Fuller, but Jackson is down on the field.

Jackson walks off the field with trainers as they take his helmet. 

On fourth and nine, Notre Dame lines up to kick a 44-yard field goal and it hits off the upright. No good.

USC takes over its own 27-yard line. Cody Kessler takes a knee to send the game into halftime.

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USC will start at its own 25-yard line.

Cody Kessler completes a nine-yard pass to Nelson Agholor as the offense sprints up the field and quickly snaps another play for a first down.

Kessler alternating between Agholor and handing off to Justin Davis on this drive.

Davis is dropped for a loss on third down -- Notre Dame's defense finally showing a pulse.

Fourth and five, Sarkisian sends his offense out -- before the punt team sprints on.

Kris Albarado punts. 

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USC 35, Notre Dame 7 (4:11 left in the first quarter)

Notre Dame will start at its own 36-yard line. USC's Soma Vainuku was called for unnecessary roughness on the kick off.

Malik Zaire in at quarterback for Notre Dame.

Zaire completes a 49-yard pass to Chris Brown, who breaks and Adoree' Jackson tackle to take off for extra yardage before Jackson is finally able to drag him down.

That was Zaire's first pass attempt of the game, not bad for a cold arm.

Zaire quickly gets Notre Dame on the board, he rushes 11 yards for a touchdown.

The extra point is good.

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USC 35, Notre Dame 0 (5:15 left in the second quarter)

Notre Dame will start at its own 27-yard line. 

J.R. Tavai sacks Everett Golson for the second time.

On third down, Golson completes a 23-yard pass to Will Fuller. That's Golson's longest completion of the game.

Third and 18, J.R. Tavai puts pressure on Golson as he throws and HayesPullard comes up with an interception. The official ruling -- Tavai with a forced fumble and Pullard with the recovery.

It's been a long time since I've seen this kind of energy from the Trojans on the field and sideline.

USC will takeover from its own 49-yard line.

In his final game at the Coliseum, fifth-year senior Randall Telfer catches his first pass. 

Cody Kessler is sacked by Grant Blakenship.

Kessler, with pressure coming, gets the screen pass out to Javorius Allen, who breaks a couple of tackles to pick up 17 yards.

Kessler keeps the ball, gains eight yard for a first own.

Nelson Agholor breaks four tackles, five defenders, for a 13-yard touchdown reception. 

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.

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USC 28, Notre Dame 0 (10:51 left in the second quarter)

Notre Dame will start at its own 16-yard line.

Josh Shaw is in at cornerback for Adoree' Jackson, who has been playing in all three phases.

Hayes Pullard makes a bit hit on Tarean Folston, who stumbles on his feet a few yards before falling to the turf. You could hear the hit from the press box.

USC is called offsides on third down, giving Notre Dame a first down.

Golson gets the ball out, but is flattened by Pullard in the process. I think USC players heard that they were called "soft" after the UCLA loss. They've come out today with a vengeance.

Third and 10, Gerald Bowman interception and the USC sideline goes crazy. Golson threw the ball high and it went flying through the hands of Corey Robinson and into the arms of Bowman.

That is Bowman's first interception since the opener against Fresno State.

USC will takeover at its own 48-yard line.

Justin Davis rushes for nine yards and nearly broke a tackle that would have given him an open path to the end zone.

USC is keeping the tempo turned up. It's odd that the Trojans have not operated at this speed for the majority of the season.

Cody Kessler completes a 13-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.

First and goal, Kessler completes a six-yard touchdown pass to Darreus Rogers. That's Rogers' fourth touchdown this season.

This Notre Dame defense cannot keep up.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.

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USC 21, Notre Dame 0 (38 seconds left in the first quarter)

USC will start at its own 45-yard line.

Cody Kessler scrambles and throws a nice ball to JuJu Smith, but Smith is unable to hang on with cornerback Cole Luke in his face.

Notre Dame is still having a hard time getting set against the up-tempo Trojans. 

Bryce Dixon catches his first pass for 13 yards. Dixon only caught one pass against UCLA.

Max Redfield down on the play. Su'a Cravens standing near Redfield -- the two played against each other in high school. Redfield was highly recruited by the Trojans our of Mission Viejo High. He was walked off by Trojans.

George Farmer catches his second touchdown pass, this time for 31 yards. He's had two touchdowns this season. This is is first game with multiple touchdown receptions.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.

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Notre Dame will start at its own 25-yard line.

USC's defense looks more inspired and more physical today, as John Plattenburg makes a tackle and then Everett Golson is pressured by Anthony Sarao and has to throw the ball away.

Claude Pelon and J.R. Tavai sack Golson on third down. USC's sideline is actually showing emotion and is jumping around.

Notre Dame punts.

Golson has completed four of 12 passes for 33 yards.

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USC 14, Notre Dame 0 (3:36 left in the first quarter)

USC will start with good field position, at its own 49-yard line.

Cody Kessler looks for JuJu Smith deep in double coverage, Smith is tripped by cornerback Cole Luke who is called for pass interference.

Bryce Dixon sat out of practice this week with concussion-like symptons, Sarkisian said, but he is in on this series. 

Justin Davis rushed for 10 yards, breaking multiple tackles. Davis said this week that coaches told him to prepare for more touches. It was against Notre Dame last season that Davis broke his ankle.

Third and two, Kessler keeps it for a first down. 

First and 10 from Notre Dame's 16, Kessler completes a 16-yard pass play to Adoree' Jackson for a touchdown. That is Jackson's second touchdown this season, his first since the opener against Fresno State.

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Leon McQuay makes a big tackle on special teams, his teammates clearly excited for him. McQuay's tackling last week was non-existent.

Notre Dame will start at its own 18-yard line.

Josh Shaw is back on defense. USC playing with five in the secondary and two down linemen.

Fumbled snap, Everett Golson recovers but is quickly taken down by J.R. Tavai. 

Golson's third-down pass leads Will Fuller out of bounds, incomplete.

The Fighting Irish will punt for the third time. 

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USC 7, Notre Dame 0 (6:50 left in the first quarter)

USC will start from its own 20-yard line.

Javorius Allen rushes for 15 yards, carrying multiple Notre Dame defenders on his back. Keep in mind, this could be Allen's last game in the Coliseum.

Before anyone can blink, the ball is snapped again. This is as fast as USC has played since its opener against Fresno State. Notre Dame is scrambling to get set on defense. 

There is speed from George Farmer! Farmer catches a 48-yard pass from Cody Kessler for a touchdown -- outrunning his defender the entire way.

Andre Heidari's extra point is good.

Kessler has completed five of seven passes for 80 yards. 

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Notre Dame will start at its own 20-yard line.

Everett Golson completes a 10-yard pass to Corey Robinson to start the drive.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said before the game that the more physical team would win this game, USC is already missing tackles.

Third and six, Golson completes a 14-yard pass to Amir Carlisle before he is tackled by Adoree' Jackson.

Golson, so far, is wildly inaccurate throwing behind receivers and three feet over their heads.

Third and 10, Wil Fuller has to go upstairs for Golson's pass and it carries him out of bounds, incomplete.

Notre Dame punts.

Golson has competed two of eight passes for 24 yards.

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USC will start at its own 32-yard line.

Javorius Allen rushes for seven yards in his first carry and then reaches a first own in his second carry.

What do you know -- USC's offense is actually running up-tempo right now.

Notre Dame linebacker Jalen Smith got to Cody Kessler, but Kessler was able to throw the ball out of bounds before taking the sack.

Kessler completes a 10-yard pass to Nelson Agholor. Those two will try to get back on track after they struggled mightily against UCLA.

Allen rushes for six yards.

Notre Dame's offense is struggling. Kessler completes another pass to Agholor, good for a first down.

USC is called for a false start, which is the third flag of the game. 

JuJu Smith catches a short pass and then makes a spectacular diving catch out of the back of the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown reception. Wow, what a catch by Smith. 

I stand corrected, the play was reviewed and the touchdown was called back -- officials say he did not maintain possession.

Kessler was sacked on third down.

Fourth down, Kessler punts.

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Notre Dame will start at its own 25-yard line. 

Josh Shaw is starting at cornerback -- his first start this season.

What do you know? First play is a flag from the Pac-12 officials. So is the second play. Both penalties are against the Irish, the first is declined and the second is a delay of game. 

Everett Golson's second-down pass falls incomplete, Shaw on the coverage.

Golson had all the time in the world on third down, but no open receivers. 

Notre Dame will punt. 

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Notre Dame won the toss and elected to receive. 

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Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart is leading the Trojans from the Coliseum tunnel today with a sword in his hand.

Leinart led the team last season when they defeated Stanford.

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The seniors were just announced. Hayes Pullard drew the biggest ovation and there were cheers for Josh Shaw as well.

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USC has announced its starting lineups.

The offense: Quarterback Cody Kessler, fullback Jahleel Pinner, tailback Javorius Allen, receivers JuJu Smith and Nelson Agholor, tight end Randall Telfer, and linemen Zach Banner, Viane Talamaivao, Max Tuerk, Damien Mama and Toa Lobendahn.

The defense: Linemen Delvon Simmons, Antwaun Woods and Leonard Williams, outside linebackers J.R. Tavai and Su'a Cravens, inside linebackers Hayes Pullard and Anthony Sarao, cornerbacks Kevon Seymour and Adoree' Jackson and safeties Gerald Bowman and John Plattenburg.

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It's about 60 minutes before kickoff here at the Coliseum.

Columnist Bill Plaschke is here to help cover the game and we had a pre-game chat.

Lindsey Thiry: Hi Bill, great to see you again at the Coliseum. It's a beautiful day for the regular-season finale isn't it, but we're missing somebody. 

Bill Plaschke: I know I’m a poor substitute for Gary Klein. No, he didn’t just run out of black sweaters to wear. He’s actually off doing Dad duty, watching his son play for Brown in a NCAA water polo tournament match.

LT: Rumor has it, this is the first game he's missed since 2006. What a run. So Bill, what do you think today? Can you USC finally beat Notre Dame and finish on a high note? 

BP: I think USC already went out on a bad note against UCLA, but they can salvage some of this season with a win here. And actually, I think they get that win.

LT: I hate to always be so agreeable with you, but I think USC will win today, too.

BP: OK, so we agree that they’ll win. I think one of the big reasons is that Notre Dame is so bad. What do you think?

LT: I think there are a few guys -- especially Hayes Pullard and Leonard Williams -- who refuse to end their careers with a loss at home. 

BP: So your sources say Leonard Williams is turning pro?

LT: As good as gone. 

BP: That’s what some people have been hoping about Sark. How bad does he need this game for his credibility here?

LT: He needs this game more than anything. You cannot lose to both UCLA and Notre Dame. Ed Orgeron did that last season and we all know how that turned out. If Sarkisian loses to both these teams, he better find a way to win next season - otherwise this could be a short-lived homecoming.

BP: If Sark loses, do you think they make him shake up his staff or change responsiblities?

LT: I think change is possible, but unlikely.  Sarkisian - I think - would argue that his staff needs to be kept together for at least one more season. It took him awhile at Washington to fire his ol' buddy Nick Holt - I don't think he'll let any of his guys go this season.

BP: It’s hard to believe to that just two years ago, this was the marquee game of the college football regular and drew record TV ratings. What is the mood among the USC kids. Do they even realize Notre Dame is a rival?

LT: That was four coaches and a backup quarterback ago. The amount of buzz surrounding this game is non-existent compared to when they play UCLA. This rivalry doesn't reside with the youngsters. 

BP: I think that they will be playing for pride, though, especially the Cody Kessler-Nelson Agoholor equation that was missing last week. Do you see them connecting more this season?

LT: Isn't their pride buried 100 feet under the Rose Bowl right now?

BP: Actually, after Friday afternoon, UCLA is buried down there with it.

LT: Well, I think Cody Kessler and Nelson Agholor will try to get back on the same page today. Who knows if they can get it together though -- last week was that rough. 

BP: But don’t forget, Notre Dame’s defense is in tatters with injuries. I predict USC will gain 400 yards and win by two touchdowns.

LT: I think USC will win by a touchdown... but it's coming down to the fourth quarter. Hold your breath. 

BP: The fact that we are holding our breath today reminds me of one of the greatest USC feats in the last 30 years. It’s hard to believe, but Pete Carroll beat Notre Dame eight straight times. That’s a USC record in this rivalry that will never be broken.

LT: Glory days. 

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USC will promote the movie "Unbroken" -- the story of USC Olympic distance runner and war hero Louis Zamperini -- before and during today's game.

The movie trailer will play on the video board during warmups.

The film's director, Angelina Jolie, will introduce the USC marching band via the video board at halftime. The band will perform a tribute to Zamperini.

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USC fans should enjoy watching defensive lineman Leonard Williams in what is likely his last game at the Coliseum.

The junior -- who has been listed as a top-10 pick in NFL mock drafts -- is expected to make himself available for the draft after the season.

If there is one thing that keeps Williams from leaving, it could be three straight losses to UCLA.

"Just being a Trojan and not being able to say I've ever beat [UCLA] is something I would regret for the rest of my life," Williams said.

Williams has also never defeated Notre Dame.

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We are back in the Coliseum for USC's regular-season finale against Notre Dame.

Here's a game preview with Gary Klein and me. 

It's a perfect fall day for football - sunny and 64 degrees.

USC seniors Hayes Pullard, Randall Telfer, Gerald Bowman, Aundrey Walker, Josh Shaw, J.R. Tavai, Andre Heidari, Teddy Baker, Giovanni Di Poalo, Nathan Guertler, Anthony Neyer, and Chris Willson will be recognized before the game.

This could be the final Coliseum game for juniors who are likely to make themselves available for the NFL draft following the season: Leonard Williams, Javorius Allen and Nelson Agholor. 

 

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