Brian Kelly’s success at Notre Dame vs. USC

·4 min read

Last week saw Notre Dame take down USC, 31-16, the fourth-straight win for the Fighting Irish in what is one of the best rivalries in college football. Notre Dame has now won eight times over the Trojans since Kelly’s stint began with the 2010 season.

For comparison, Notre Dame won just eight games against USC from 1990-2009.

Kelly moves to 8-3 all-time against the Trojans. Here is a quick look back at each of his games against USC since taking over as Notre Dame’s head coach:

2010: Streakbuster

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Following a 4-5 start Notre Dame appeared headed towards missing a bowl game in Kelly’s first year. However, an upset of Utah and a win over Army set the Irish to close the regular season at USC with a winning record, something they accomplished with a 20-16 victory.

2011: Back Under the Lights

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Notre Dame hosted their first night game in 21 years in October of 2011 with USC in town but the Irish weren’t up to the occasion, falling flat against Lane Kiffin and USC, 31-17.

2012: 12-0!

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Notre Dame’s tremendous defensive line stuffed the Trojans at the goal line late in the 2012 contest to put the stamp on a perfect 12-0 regular season with a 22-13 win.

2013: Grind it Out Victory

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Tommy Rees found T. J. Jones with just over a minute to play in the first half to put Notre Dame up 14-10 on interim head coach Ed Orgeron and USC as neither team would score the entire second half.

2014: Worst Loss of Kelly Era

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There have been losses that came on bigger stages and inexcusable losses that came against mediocre opponents but nobody has outscored Kelly’s Notre Dame squad by more than the 35 points USC did in 2014, 49-14.

2015: Shootout Victory!

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Notre Dame jumped out to a 21-10 first quarter lead against USC in 2015, in part, thanks to an early big play from Will Fuller. The Irish would stall the next two quarters before running off 17-straight fourth quarter points to win, 41-31.

2016: Woeful end to woeful year

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Notre Dame allowed huge plays to Adoree’ Jackson who had a kickoff return for a touchdown and a 52-yard touchdown reception in USC’s 45-27 win. That win remains the last by USC in this historic rivalry.

2017: Rare Blowout Win

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Notre Dame blowouts of USC are rare even when wins against the Trojans are piling in. 2017 was the rare case of pure Irish dominance though as Notre Dame built a 28-0 halftime lead. Brandon Wimbush ran and threw for two touchdowns each while Josh Adams ran for three scores in the 49-14 victory.

2018: Another Bow on 12-0!

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2018 saw another Notre Dame regular season finish a perfect 12-0 after a hard fought victory at USC, 24-17. This game will forever feature one of my favorite blocks ever thrown by a Notre Dame player of any position:

2019: Hold on for dear life...

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Notre Dame held a 24-6 lead late in the third quarter in 2019 but USC made things interesting down the stretch, getting within three before the Irish recovered an onside kick with just over a minute to go. We had no idea then then that we wouldn’t get these two on the same field the next year.

2020: No Game

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The global pandemic was to blame for the Pac-12 not playing any out-of-conference games in 2020, which meant Notre Dame and USC didn’t meet for the first time since World War II.

2021: Four Straight!

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Notre Dame’s 31-16 win over USC in 2021 was their fourth-straight over the Trojans and Brian Kelly’s eighth win over the biggest rival of the Fighting Irish.

Brian Kelly Total vs. USC:

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Brian Kelly’s all-time record vs. USC: 8-3

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