Notre Dame at Southern California

Adoree does it all in No. 12 USC's 45-27 rout of Notre Dame

By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
  •  

LOS ANGELES (AP) By the time Adoree Jackson effortlessly hurdled Notre Dame's kicker and sprinted off to strike a Heisman pose in the end zone, every rain-soaked soul already knew they were seeing the culmination of something special for Southern California.

Jackson might have punctuated his three-year career at the Coliseum with one last virtuoso display of his talent, although he hasn't decided yet.

The Trojans unquestionably wrapped up their regular season by with a fitting climax to a two-month crescendo.

Jackson returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns and caught a scoring pass to propel No. 12 USC to its eighth consecutive victory, 45-27 over Notre Dame on Saturday in the 88th edition of their famed intersectional rivalry.

Sam Darnold passed for 205 yards and two TDs, and Ronald Jones II rushed for 134 yards and an early score as USC (9-3, No. 12 CFP) claimed the Jeweled Shillelagh for the 11th time in 15 years. Ajene Harris also returned an interception 33 yards for a score shortly before halftime for the Trojans, who fell just short of the Pac-12 South title.

But if Jackson, the Trojans' do-everything cornerback, heads to the NFL next season, he left LA with one of the most memorable performances in this rivalry game's history.

USC fans chanted ''One more year!'' throughout the second half at the smiling junior, who has scored five touchdowns against Notre Dame in his career. He returned a punt 55 yards for a score before turning a short pass into a 52-yard TD and then taking a kickoff 97 yards for his third score, leaping over John Chereson along the way.

''The returns and reception were just great blocks by everybody,'' Jackson said. ''They made it look easier than it was. I knew something special would happen when I trust them. They set things up, and it makes a highlight play.''

With an unbeaten run through October and November, USC completed a perfect home schedule and remained in contention for the league championship until the final hour of the regular season.

Colorado was beaten convincingly by USC last month, but the Buffaloes' win over Utah kept them one game ahead of the Trojans atop the division and sent them into the conference title game next week against Washington. USC would have advanced if the Utes had beaten Colorado.

USC still could be in contention for a Rose Bowl berth, particularly if the Huskies rout Colorado. The Trojans will get a week off from practice before learning their postseason fate.

''What an accomplishment by a group of kids that have been through some adversity and come out the other side of it,'' USC coach Clay Helton said. ''What this team and this group have is something special. Over my 21 years (in coaching), I'll always remember this. It's a special group.''

JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to punctuate the prolific junior receiver's own probable Coliseum finale. Smith-Schuster is looking toward a bowl game, but also is thinking about the future.

''If Adoree comes back, I'm for sure coming back and we're going to win the natty,'' Smith-Schuster said, referring to the national championship.

Josh Adams ran for 180 yards and DeShone Kizer passed for 220 yards and two scores for the Fighting Irish (4-8), who finished their worst season since 2007 with their largest margin of defeat this year.

''I thought we could play with anybody this year,'' said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who shrugged off suggestions his job could be in jeopardy. ''We just have not been able to sustain consistent performance for four quarters.''

Chris Finke, Kevin Stepherson and Equanimeous St. Brown caught TD passes for the Irish.

TILLERY'S MISTAKES

Notre Dame's frustration boiled over when defensive lineman Jerry Tillery made two particularly sketchy plays in the second half.

Tillery first kicked USC running back Aca'Cedric Ware in the helmet while Ware was on the ground with an apparent head injury. Tillery then received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty a few minutes later when he stomped on prone USC offensive tackle Zach Banner's foot.

''You just can't do stupid things like that,'' Notre Dame defensive lineman Jarron Jones said. ''That's going to reflect on you as a player. That's going to reflect on your character.''

Banner summed up the Trojans' feelings with a reference to Tillery's jersey: ''(No.) 99 is dirty.''

REFEREE INJURED

Referee Ron Cherry left the game in the third quarter after getting flattened in an accidental collision with USC linebacker Michael Hutchings. Cherry appeared to be unconscious after hitting the turf, but eventually walked up the tunnel unaided. USC said Cherry was evaluated for a concussion at a nearby hospital, but should be released later Saturday.

THE TAKEAWAY

Notre Dame: This was an embarrassing end to an uncommonly ugly year for the Irish. Kelly will find little to salvage from this trip to LA, and Tillery was already receiving heavy online criticism for his dirty play before the game ended.

USC: The Trojans have evolved into one of the nation's best teams over the last two months. It happened slightly too late to get into the national title conversation, but Helton clearly harnessed USC's formidable talent heading into the postseason and 2017.

UP NEXT

USC: An upper-tier bowl game.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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Scoreboard
Notre Dame  (4-8)7014627
Southern California #12  (9-3) «101414745
Players of the Game
Fighting Irish

D. Kizer
Att 32
Comp 17
Yds 220
TD 2
Trojans

S. Darnold
Att 29
Comp 19
Yds 205
TD 2
Scoring Summary
USCMatt Boermeester 37 yd FG
NDDeShone Kizer 1 yd run (Justin Yoon kick)
USCRonald Jones II 51 yd run (Matt Boermeester kick)
USCAdoree' Jackson 55 yd punt return (Matt Boermeester kick)
USCAjene Harris 33 yd interception return (Matt Boermeester kick)
NDChris Finke 14 yd pass from DeShone Kizer (Justin Yoon kick)
USCAdoree' Jackson 52 yd pass from Sam Darnold (Matt Boermeester kick)
NDKevin Stepherson 29 yd pass from DeShone Kizer (Justin Yoon kick)
USCAdoree' Jackson 97 yd kick return (Matt Boermeester kick)
USCJuJu Smith-Schuster 2 yd pass from Sam Darnold (Matt Boermeester kick)
NDEquanimeous St. Brown 15 yd pass from Malik Zaire (failed 2pt rush)
 
Team Stats
 NDUSC
First Downs2323
Third Down Efficiency5-175-12
Fourth Down Efficiency2-20-0
Plays-Net Yards76-40868-412
Rushes-Yds37-15438-207
Passing Yds254205
Kick Return Yds74163
Punt Return Yds1466
Passes21-39-119-30-0
Punts8-3906-231
Fumbles-Lost1-11-1
Penalties-Yds6-547-65
Time of Poss.28:5731:3
 
Individual Stats
RUSHING
ND: Josh Adams 17-180, Tarean Folston 6-12, Dexter Williams 3--1, DeShone Kizer 11--37
USC: Ronald Jones II 16-134, Justin Davis 10-36, Sam Darnold 3-16, Adoree' Jackson 1-12, Aca'Cedric Ware 2-8, Dominic Davis 5-2, Team 1--1
PASSING
ND: DeShone Kizer 17-32-220-1, Malik Zaire 3-5-30-0, Chris Finke 1-2-4-0
USC: Sam Darnold 19-29-205-0, Max Browne 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING
ND: Equanimeous St. Brown 7-94, Chris Finke 4-53, Corey Holmes 4-29, Kevin Stepherson 2-34, Josh Adams 2-30, Tarean Folston 1-10, DeShone Kizer 1-4
USC: Deontay Burnett 5-34, Darreus Rogers 4-49, JuJu Smith-Schuster 4-23, Taylor McNamara 2-18, Adoree' Jackson 1-52, Jalen Greene 1-15, Isaac Whitney 1-8, Daniel Imatorbhebhe 1-6
 
Standings
TeamStandingsConferenceOverall
Notre Dame1st FBS Independents 0-04-8
Southern California2nd Pac-12 South7-210-3

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