SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Corey Robinson made a diving catch in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, and No. 14 Notre Dame rebounded to beat Southern California, 41-31, on Saturday after squandering a two-touchdown lead.
C.J. Prosise ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and DeShone Kizer threw two scoring passes, the second the 10-yarder to Robinson that made it 38-31.
Southern California played for the first time since firing coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday. Clay Helton directed the Trojans as interim coach.
The Fighting Irish (6-1) bounced back from an embarrassing 35-point loss to USC in the regular-season finale last year. The victory looked in doubt when the Trojans (3-3) scored three straight touchdowns to take a 31-24 lead. But the Irish rallied to win the Jeweled Shillelagh for the third time in four seasons.
It marked the first time in seven tries the Irish beat the Trojans after losing by 30 or more the season before.
Cody Kessler threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score for USC, but the Irish picked him off two passes in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
In a game of shifting momentum, the Irish scored 40 points against the Trojans for the first time since 1977 when Norte Dame warmed up in blue jerseys, then came out in green jerseys and beat USC 49-19 en route to the national championship.
The Trojans lost consecutive games for the first time since losing three straight to end the 2012 season. USC has three losses this early in the season for the first time since starting 1-4 in Pete Carroll’s first year as coach in 2001.
The loss also adds to the mounting troubles the Trojans are facing with a game next week against No. 4 Utah followed by a game at No. 23 California. USC athletic director Pat Haden, who spent 12 years as a color analyst on Notre Dame television broadcasts, was feeling lightheaded just before kickoff and was taken to the locker room. Haden made a stop at the hospital, then headed back to Los Angeles on a private plane.
Haden has been under scrutiny for his hiring of Sarkisian and for allowing Sarkisian to continue to coach after slurring his words and using inappropriate language during an event in August and other struggles by the football team.
Prosise started the go-ahead drive with runs of 17 and 25 yards, then Notre Dame, burned by a double-pass by USC earlier in the game, responded when Torii Hunter Jr. took a backward pass from Kizer and threw a 35-yard pass to Alize Jones at the 12-yard line. The pass by Hunter made up for a fumble into the end zone earlier in the game. Corey Robinson then made a diving catch in the end zone on a pass from Kizer for 10-yard score. It was the first touchdown catch of the season for Robinson.
Kessler tried a long pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but it was intercepted by KeiVarae Russell at the Notre Dame 33-yard line. The Irish responded immediately with a 45-yard pass from Kizer to Fuller at the 22. The Irish drive stalled, but Justin Yoon kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Irish a 41-31 lead. Notre Dame safety Max Redfield intercepted a deflected pass by Kessler on the next possession.
Kessler, coming off on of the worst performances in his college career, being sacked five times and being held to 156 yards passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions, was 30-of-46 passing for 365 yards. He had passed for six touchdowns against the Irish a season ago. The Trojans amassed 590 yards total offense.
Kizer was 15-of-24 passing for 227 yards and Notre Dame compiled 476 yards offense.
It was a cold, raw night with the temperature starting at 40 and dropping to 32 late. The Trojans are 1-7-1 in cold weather games against the Irish.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.