Theo Riddick ran for a career-high 143 yards, Cierre Wood added 114 yards as No. 5 Notre Dame rallied for a 17-14 victory on Saturday.
Riddick had runs of 55 and 27, the two longest rushes of his career, to pace Notre Dame (7-0), which is off to its best start in a decade and has a big game ahead against No. 10 Oklahoma next week.
"Just ran really hard, north and south, physical," Brian Kelly said of Riddick. "That gets an energy for everybody. The O-line sees a guy that's really pounding it in there; I think that he got us that energy that we needed."
The Cougars (4-4) fell to 0-3 on the road as they surrendered a season-high 270 yards rushing by an opponent.
After not giving up a touchdown in four straight games, the Irish defense gave up two in 2:18 in the 2nd quarter as Notre Dame fell behind 14-7 at halftime.
We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half with some uncharacteristic mistakes," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "But we told them at the half-time, you know, this is about how we finish this football game. There wasn't a panic. We stuck with what we were doing."
With the score 14-10 in the 4th, George Atkinson juked a defender and gave Notre Dame the lead on a TD run.
It felt more like a matter of survival than anything for the Irish.
"I think the thing that was concerning for me the most is when our guys came in, and I didn't sense a great feeling after winning a tough, tough football game," Brian Kelly said after the game. "And that's a team that won ten games last year. That's a bracket-buster team in basketball parlance, that's a darned good football team. Our kids hung in there and won the football game. So really pleased to be 7-0."
Backup quarterback Tommy Rees, starting in place of injured Everett Golson, completed 6 of 7 passes in the first quarter for 86 yards and a touchdown, completing four of those to Tyler Eifert. But Rees went cold later and the Irish attempted only three passes in the second half.
Kelly said after the game that Golson will start next week versus Oklahoma.