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No. 21 Notre Dame stifles Caleb Williams in rout of No. 10 USC

Xavier Watts had two interceptions and returned a late fumble for a touchdown to help No. 21 Notre Dame to a 48-20 victory against No. 10 Southern Cal on Saturday night in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame turned three first-half interceptions into touchdowns, sacked USC quarterback Caleb Williams six times, and held the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to 191 total yards and a late touchdown pass.

Sam Hartman completed 13 of 20 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Audric Estime rushed for 95 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns for the Fighting Irish (6-2).

After trailing 24-3 late in the first half, the Trojans (6-1) twice cut the deficit to 11 in the second half, but Notre Dame quickly answered each time.

Williams found Brenden Rice for a 7-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31-20 with 9:04 left in the game, but Jadarian Price returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to put the Fighting Irish back up 38-20.

Spencer Shrader kicked a 23-yard field goal with 3:40 left for a 41-20 lead. Watts then returned the fumble for a touchdown with 3:27 left to make it 48-20.

Williams, who came in with 22 touchdown passes and one interception, was intercepted on the opening drive of the game by Watts, who returned it to the USC 12.

The Fighting Irish scored three plays later on a 4-yard touchdown reception by Gi’Bran Payne for a 7-0 lead.

A 25-yard field goal by Denis Lynch cut the lead to 7-3 before Shrader matched him with a 36-yarder to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 10-3 with 12:19 left in the first half.

Shortly after Willams had a 38-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty, the Trojans were stopped on fourth-and-1. They got the ball back deep in their territory, but Watts intercepted Williams for a second time and returned it to the 2-yard line.

Estime barged into the end zone on the next play to extend the lead to 17-3 with 4:14 left in the first half.

The Fighting Irish intercepted Williams for a third time on the next possession and Estime scored on another 1-yard run to stretch the lead to 24-3 lead with 1:30 remaining in the half.

Lynch hit a 48-yard field goal as the first half expired to make it 24-6.

The Trojans made it 24-13 on a 31-yard touchdown run by MarShawn Lloyd with 7:20 left in the third quarter, but Notre Dame quickly answered with Hartman’s 48-yard touchdown strike to Chris Tyree to make it 31-13.

–Field Level Media

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