Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

8 in a row, one more to go

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy, but it was what USC has been doing for the last two months -- it was one more win. That's 8 straight now. Not enough to get the Trojans into the Pac-12 Championship Game but could the Rose Bowl -- or even the Cotton -- still be waiting?

The word was out around this USC football team.

Adoree' Jackson was going to do something to make folks remember him by in his Coliseum farewell. Even Adoree' admitted it a bit, saying this week only that it would be his "last game at the Coliseum . . . this season. And you do want to leave them with a good taste in their mouth."

USC's 45-27 win over the Irish, the eighth straight leaving the Trojans with a 9-3 regular season mark will have to do for now as there will be no Pac-12 Championship Game this week for USC after Colorado beat Utah Saturday night to claim the Pac-12 South title.

Of note is the fact that both teams playing in the title game Friday at Santa Clara have both lost to USC. But Colorado lost to no one else. So all the post-game viewing parties for USC players and coaches were for naught. "You live and learn from it," Clay Helton said of the lessons from that 1-3 September start.

You can't expect someone else to take care of your business. Not Utah. And certainly not Notre Dame, as Adoree' found out when for the only time all night, he found himself shut down by the Irish.

Reaching the top of the Coliseum tunnel for the final time -- in his junior season or in his USC career, Adoree' was't saying -- he left a couple of dozen trailing media members behind and headed for the In-n-Out Burger truck parked inside the Coliseum gate. Must be for us, Adoree' thought, since USC has done that for spring games.

Only it wasn't. As Adoree' got there, he realized the truck was for Notre Dame players and coaches and they weren't giving him any. Although as he turned away after saying with a big grin that "I'm from Illinois, is that close enough?" one of the Notre Dame staffers in charge looked at his partner and asked with a look of recognition: "Wait, was that who I thought it was?"

It was. But don't feel bad. Notre Dame had no luck stopping Adoree' almost every way he touched the ball in juicing up a USC team that badly needed it against a talented if underachieving Irish team far better than its final 4-8 record. They were not going down easily.

"That was hard," Sam Darnold said on a day when the redshirt freshman looked human at last, "especially the first half," he said, "when we were up 10-7 and they had the ball."

And then they didn't, choosing to punt it to Adoree' who grabbed it casually on a bounce at the USC 45 and quick as you can say "In-n-Out," did just that in sprinting past the Irish cover guys to make it 17-7 with 1:24 in the half.

And on a play that wouldn't have happened had the ACC officiating crew not whistled the previous punt attempt that saw a bad snap go through the punter's hands for what looked like a safety as a no-play because it was snapped before the players had all left the field.

So wipe that one away and try again. Or maybe not. USC would take that seven-for-two exchange. And get ready to play defense again on the next play when ND quarterback DeShone Kizer drilled USC corner Ajene Harris at the 33-yard line and the redshirt sophomore was off for his first-ever college TD.

From 10-7 to 24-7 in 17 seconds and USC was in full control.

"Like an early Christmas present," Helton said of the first two of USC's three non-offensive touchdowns. Adoree' would come back at the end of the third quarter, after giving up a TD catch to ND's Kevin Stepherson, with a 97-yard kickoff return TD that included an easy hurdle over the diving Irish kicker, John Chereson, at the sideline that looked like Adoree' had practiced it. Or the two of them had worked on it together.

Not so, of course. "I knew kickers like to go low," Adoree' said. So he went high. Bye bye.

"He's unbelievable," Helton said, "to go for a kick return, a punt return and a pass reception for touchdowns. He's a super hero."

If not a super hero, 

And the No. 1 attention-getter after the game as the USC students, as wound up as they've been in years after missing out on the away Washington and UCLA wins, chanted "One more year, one more year," in Adoree's ear as he led the band from Art Bartner's ladder with the Trojan sword.

Asked directly if he thought this was his last game at the Coliseum, Adoree' said "No . . . I haven't thought about it," answering a question that hadn't been asked.

And maybe he hasn't. He was too busy trying to figure out if he could get a pass interception TD as well to complete what was already his first career three-touchdown game.

Not that Adoree' needed one. Going back to 1971, as far back as these sorts of records were kept, no USC player had ever returned both a kickoff and a punt for TDs in the same game. "I was thinking I was overdue for a kick return," he said. "I was thinking I needed to get something. I just got scored on and I had to make up for it."

The loss was Notre Dame's largest this season by 10 points and and played in rain for the first time in six seasons at the Coliseum and in front of the smallest crowd, 72,402, since the 1986 USC-Notre Dame game here, the last time Notre Dame came in with a losing record.

"It's awesome to have our athletes come out and play," Darnold said of a game when that's all USC wanted to do against an Irish team on the muscle that had one player, Nicco Fertitta, ejected for targeting and another, Jerry Tillery, who should have been for using his foot against the unconscious Ced Ware after he was targeted. "Last game it was DeQuan [Hampton], this game it was Adoree' -- as usual."

For Sam, his 19-of-29 passing for 205 yards and two TDs with no sacks and no interceptions, was acceptable. But nothing out of the ordinary. "But no turnovers," Sam said. "If you take care of the ball . . . "

Ronald Jones was pretty special, however, with his 51-yard TD burst midway through the first getting USC its first TD. He racked up 134 yards on 16 carries (an 8.7 average).

The defense, led by Cameron Smith's 10 tackles, had a season-high six sacks. Leading the way from the edge were Porter Gustin, with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks, and Uchenna Nwosu, with seven and 0.5 sacks.  

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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