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Saturday, November 27, 2010
Irish lead USC at halftime

By Brian Bennett

Here are a couple of things we're not used to seeing lately when Notre Dame plays at USC: The Irish dominating on defense. The Irish holding all the momentum.

But that's the story so far at the Coliseum. Notre Dame scored twice late after not being able to move the ball for most of the first half. Brian Kelly has been criticized for gambling too much at times this year, but it paid off this time. The Irish got down to the USC 1 with 10 seconds left and no timeouts. Instead of settling for the field goal, Kelly stayed aggressive and it resulted in a touchdown pass to Duval Kamara.

David Ruffer missed the extra point, but the Irish still lead 13-3 in a game they haven't won since 2001. They've been blown out the past four trips to L.A., but this one is playing out entirely differently.

The USC offense is struggling with backup Mitch Mustain replacing the injured Matt Barkley, but credit some of that to Notre Dame's defense. It hasn't allowed a touchdown since early in the Tulsa game, a span that now stretches more than 13 quarters. That's not a typo.

What an amazing turnaround by the defense since the Navy game. Just like the last two games, Notre Dame's opponent scored first with a field goal. The last two games, the Irish never allowed another another point.

I can't quite explain where this defense has come from, but if it keeps up, Notre Dame is going to write a very solid finish to this regular season.