The Fighting Irish defeated the USC Trojans, 41-31, on Saturday night. Here are the critical plays that allowed Notre Dame to win:
KeiVarae Russel’s Interception
KeiVarae Russell has been absent for the most of the year. Both he and Brian Kelly spoke of a breakout performance. Early indications were that this breakout was no where in sight.
But, following Corey Robinson’s touchdown to make it 38-31, Russell intercepted a pass intended for Juju Smith-Schuster. The Trojans attempted to bait Russell with a stop and go route. However, Russell played it perfectly. What was beyond perfect was Russell’s play on the ball. The Irish Senior leaped and caught the ball over his shoulder.
Russell later tipped a pass in the air that was intercepted by Safety Max Redfield.
This is the Russell everyone expected at the beginning of the year.
Equanimeous St. Brown’s Blocked Punt
Notre Dame waited for the right time to try to block a punt. It was almost too easy as Equanimeous St. Brown jumped blocked the USC punt. Former USC Trojan Amir Carlisle picked up the blocked punt and waltzed into the end zone. This was one of the game changing plays that allowed the Irish to build an early lead.
Corey Robinson’s TD Reception
With the score 31-31, the Irish were facing a 3rd and goal. If Notre Dame kicks a field goal in the situation, it only puts the Irish up 34-31. With how USC’s offense was playing, it was not a guarantee that the Trojans would not just go down and score.
Corey Robinson had not made many plays in the first half of the 2015 season but he came up big against the Trojans. Robinson’s lone catch, a 10-yard touchdown reception, gave Notre Dame the lead. Robinson made a tremendous catch on a pass that Kizer placed only where he could get it.
Kizer’s 3rd Down Scramble
Sometimes the most important play in the game is one of the smallest and simplest. On 3rd Down, with the Irish trailing 31-24, Quarterback DeShone Kizer scrambled for an Irish first down. Prior to this play, the Irish offense had been stagnant.
Kizer’s play helped Notre Dame continue its drive, which eventually lead to a touchdown to tie the game.
Trick Play: Hunter to Jones
Notre Dame fans finally got a taste of what it is like to pull a trick play. For the majority of the year, the Irish defense has been on the wrong side of several trick plays including a 75-yard touchdown pass against USC.
The Irish attempted a similar trick play against Navy but were unsuccessful. This time, Torii Hunter Jr. found his mark. The Notre Dame two-sport athlete caught a swing pass from Kizer then threw downfield to Alize Jones who secured the catch before stepping out of bounds.
This play sparked Notre Dame during the go-ahead drive in the 4th Quarter.