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Running Backs Carried the Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal Games of the 2010s

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Run the Damn Ball, yo

NCAA Football: Southern California at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

RTDB is a Lifestyle.

We’re getting so close to Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football coming back. Just a little under three weeks now. One of the great things about this 2021 season is that the Irish are independent again. With that comes putting USC back on the schedule. That was a strange thing last season, but no more. The Trojans come to Notre Dame Stadium in October just as originally planned. A college football season is more complete when you play your rival.

We all know that pretty much in the more dead years of the 2000s, the Irish couldn’t really sniff a win against USC. There was 2001 in Pete Carrol’s first year as head coach and then of course there was 2005, but other than that the decade was filled with game after game of getting beat up by USC. Then, the calendar turned to 2010 and the Decade of the 2010s. It was almost like a switch flipped. The Irish were winning games against USC. And they were winning more games. By the end of the decade, we saw the Irish and Brian Kelly amass a 7-3 record against USC. THAT is more like it and more even in a rivalry after USC had a decade of dominance. We should’ve foreseen the later success that BK and Tommy Rees would have against USC.

The teams that beat USC in the 2010s were teams that either had nail biters or who blew out the Trojans in awesome fashion. Regardless of how the games were won, there was pretty much one common theme: at least one running back absolutely balled out in these games. In some instances, these guys were the unsung heroes of the night. I want to take us all through these games and the impact that the Irish running backs had on these wins against our rival, Southern Cal. Running the ball is fun, and running to win is even better.

2010

Robert. Hughes. This man came into the clutch in the rain to cap off the winning drive for the Irish. In the fourth quarter, Tommy Rees led a 7-play, 77-yard scoring drive to take the lead 20-16. The defense finished out the game and did the rest. However, Robert Hughes was just a bowling ball on that drive. He would take the ball and keep pushing down the field until he eventually found the end zone. It was an incredible drive and incredible game. Let’s also not forget that this was the first win against USC in 9 years. It also capped off a 4-0 November after an insanely mediocre and somewhat embarrassing September and October.

2012

My man Theo Riddick. He was awesome that fateful night in 2012. Playing as the Number 1 team in the nation for the first time in my life, the Irish went into the LA Coliseum to try to solidify a trip to the national championship. In a night (and really a whole season) where the offense was pretty lackluster, Theo Riddick was shining. He was an absolute workhorse for the Irish, amassing 146 yards on the ground for his career high. Theo had one touchdown in the first half, but his work in the second half to keep the clock moving in a game where the Irish needed to eat up the clock, he did just that. He got the game ball, and the Irish got a 12-0 regular season.

Notre Dame v USC

2013

In this one, offense was just pretty much nonexistent. The final score was 14-10, the same score going into halftime. Passing touchdowns were how the Irish scored in that one. But, a running back made the most headlines that night and beyond. Cam McDaniel became the dreamy running back because of an amazing action shot taken of him.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2015

This was a back and forth game where the Irish came out on top at the end of the game. DeShone Kizer hit Corey Robinson in the north end zone in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Irish. But, CJ Prosise had a pretty stellar game, too. He ran for 143 yards and 2 TDs that night. During a game where Will Fuller torched Adoree Jackson, CJ Prosise had himself a pretty solid game as well.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

2017

Josh Adams. That’s all we pretty much have to say. He just DOMINATED the field that night. I mean everybody dominated everything about USC that night in a 49-14 WHOMPING. Insanely fun.

2018

This was also a fun one, but one that the Irish sure had to work for. Another instance of going into the LA Coliseum 11-0 and trying to get to the playoff. The Irish did pull that off, but it was behind the sheer power and speed of Dexter Williams and Tony Jones, Jr. They had phenomenal long TD runs to get the Irish to victory.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Notre Dame at USC Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
University of Southern California vs University of Notre Dame Set Number: X162343 TK1

2019

Talk about a nailbiter. This one was a lot closer than the last time the Irish and Trojans played in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish had to hang onto some leads, but they did it. Braden Lenzy had a breakout long run, which was incredible to watch his speed. Tony Jones, Jr. is highlighted again as he ran for 176 yards. He did not score any TDs, but he was the 2012 Theo Riddick for this game. He was needed to rattle off runs after runs, and he did. The man just help will the Irish to victory.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 USC at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So, without strong run games, the Irish probably do not see all seven of these wins against USC. It’s hella awesome to see teams not be able to stop you, and it is even better wne Southern Cal are the ones that can’t stop the Irish. Moral of the story? RUN THE DAMN BALL.