Monday, October 10, 2005

The Last Time | by Mike

The last time USC came to Notre Dame with an undefeated record...

Irish Trample USC Again, 38-10, Dash Trojans' Title Hopes
Sports Editor
The Observer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As the final seconds ticked off the clock Saturday, Irish students symbolically flooded the rain-soaked field of Notre Dame Stadium.

And for good reason. They had just watched the flood gates open on Southern California in the second half, as Notre Dame rolled to a convincing 38-10 victory over the fifth-ranked Trojans.

"This is our biggest win since Florida State," offensive guard Ryan Leahy said. "USC is USC. It's the biggest rivalry in the country."

Notre Dame's 31-24 win over the Seminoles in 1993 marked the last time Irish students touched grass after a game. Boston College and Michigan fans had enjoyed that privilege the past two years.

"We knew coming in that this game is always a special one," Irish coach Lou Holtz said. "It was a complete team effort and it certainly was a great win. I know how down-hearted Southern Cal must feel, because this game means so much to both sides."

For the Irish, it means a distinct possibility, if not probability, that they will make an appearance in a major bowl game.

For the Trojans, the loss means a season down the drain. National championship hopes faded as fast as USC's 7-6 first quarter lead. Emotions ran as low as their 10-point total indicated.

"There's not much I can say," USC coach John Robinson said. "It was obvious. We played a very bad game and Notre Dame played a very good game."

It makes 13 straight years that the two teams have played without a Trojan victory. They tied 17-17 last season. USC's last win came in 1982 against a 6-4-1 Gerry Faust-led team.

"You can flip a coin thirteen times and get heads every time," Holtz said. "But the 14th time you flip it, you'll still have a 50-50 chance of it being tails."

But for the Irish, it came up heads, but not simply because of blind luck. A dominating performance by Notre Dame on both sides of the ball decided the outcome.

"They overwhelmed us, there's no question," Robinson said. "Ironically they only gained one more yard on offense than us. That's not indicative of how it was."

Four Trojan turnovers can probably tell the story a little better. Two fumbles inside the Irish 10-yard line and two interceptions gave the Irish offense the impetus it needed. But it was turnovers the other way that had the first chapter going USC's way.

A fumbled punt by Scott Sollmann midway through the second quarter was recovered by Jesse Davis at the Irish 17. Two plays later, Keyshawn Johnson caught a Kyle Wachholtz pass, slipped through an Allen Rossum tackle, and waltzed into the end zone to give the Trojans a 7-6 lead. Little did they know that it would be their only touchdown of the day.

"I felt like it was Ohio State all over again," Holtz said. "Here we are playing our hearts out and we're down in the second quarter."

It didn't stay that way, however. Notre Dame's next drive, a 13-play, 60-yard one, ended with a Marc Edwards scoring run from two yards out. The ensuing two-point play, a nifty Edwards-to-Powlus pass, gave the Irish a 14-7 lead. Then the Irish defense took control.

"There's no question, our defense won this ball game," said Edwards, who finished with three touchdowns, a two-point conversion run and the two-point pass. "They set us up on offense all game." Notre Dame stopped a USC drive on downs with 1:54 to play. The Irish capitalized with passes from Powlus to Pete Chryplewicz and Derrick Mayes, setting up Autry Denson's four-yard plunge.

"I thought the turning point of the game was when we stopped them on downs, drove down and scored, and then stopped them again right before the half," Holtz said. "That was a big change."

USC had the ball inside the Notre Dame five with :14 to play, but failed to connect on three straight passes. The half ended without a Trojan score.

"I was prepared to tell the team that happiness is having a poor memory," Holtz said. "Whether they scored or not, we still would have been up at halftime."

Powlus had his first pass of the second half intercepted by USC's Quincy Harrison, who brought the ball back to the Irish 30. But the Trojans were held to an R.J. Sansom field goal. "Our defense really saved the day," Holtz said. "I've always felt that we were a pretty good defensive football team if we didn't give up the big play."

Those came from the side of the Irish. They rattled off 17 fourth quarter points to clinch the lopsided win.

Scores off a safety by rush linebacker Kory Minor, a Powlus-to-Chryplewicz pass and an Edwards run left the Trojans crawling back to California with their plumes between their legs.

"The difference in the game was their ability to run at us," Robinson said. "They played an outstanding game on offense."
The thrashing on the field left USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell looking for an odd moral victory:
You have to understand that when it comes to quarterbacks, they can’t really trash-talk, because they know that the guy on the other side of the ball, no matter what the score is, wants to kick his ass on every play. But there are a few guys, like Jim Harbaugh and Ron Powlus, who can really talk. Powlus played for our bitter rival Notre Dame when I was at USC. We were 6-0 coming into a game at South Bend, and we’re getting killed, 38-10, and this fool Powlus is continuing to talk trash: “This is our house. This is our house!” I said, “Ron, don’t say another word to me. Just don’t!” Well, he kept yapping away, and the next play we hit him so hard we split his chin. He comes back on the field all bandaged up. He didn’t say another word all game.