college football, Heisman Trophy, intersectional rivalry, Irish, Jeweled Shillglagh, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Notre Dame, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, South Bend, Trojan Family, Trojans, University of Southern California, USC, USC Football, USC Trojans
Trojans and Fighting Irish lining up against each other. Photo courtesy of zimbio.com
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS vs NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
*THE 87th MEETING*
DAY/DATE: Saturday, October 17, 2015
PLACE: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, IN
TIME: 4:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Channel 4
LINE: Notre Dame by six and a half points
ALL-TIME SERIES: Notre Dame leads, 45-36-5
FIRST GAME: December 6, 1926, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Notre Dame won, 13-12
MOST RECENT GAME: November 29, 2014, in the Coliseum – USC won, 49-14
LONGEST WIN STREAKS:
USC – 8 (2002-2009)
Notre Dame – 11 (1983-1993)
USC wide receiver George Farmer (#8) catching a touchdown pass in last year’s game, won by the Trojans 49-14. Photo courtesy of ReignofTroy.com
Not only is this the biggest, most traditional and historical intersectional rivalry in college football, I believe it’s the only one as I can’t think of any other pair of schools from different parts of the country that have played each other on a yearly basis for approaching nine decades.
Too many household names to count have participated in this game, ranging from Knute Rockne (“Win One For The Gipper!), who along with then-Trojan coach Howard Jones started this match-up when Rockne’s wife was convinced by the wife of USC’s athletic director that a better time would be had in sunny Southern California in December than in Nebraska, where the Irish were playing the Cornhuskers at that moment,
To Trojan coaching legend John McKay,
To O.J. Simpson,
To Marcus Allen,
To Joe Montana,
To Tim Brown,
and so many players who would go one to make either the college or pro football hall of fame that to list them all would take far too long.
Instead, I have taken a look at what is considered the most memorable games in this rivalry – which features a combined total of 22 national championships and 13 Heisman Trophy winners – and after a difficult time narrowed them down to what I feel are the four best (in chronological order):
* 1964: USC 20, Notre Dame 17
USC fans from that generation will forever remember that day in the Coliseum as the day their Trojans, due to the winning touchdown pass that Craig Fertig threw to Rod Sherman with 95 seconds left in the Coliseum, denied Notre Dame a national crown as the Irish were ranked number one going in.
Anthony Davis (#28) with the ball in the Coliseum during ‘SC’s epic 55-24 win in 1974. Photo courtesy of GettyImages.com
* 1974: USC 55, Notre Dame 24
Except for maybe another game on this list, most of the “Trojan Family” would find it quite hard to think of a better memory regarding their beloved football team as ‘SC spotted the Irish 24 points and a 24-6 halftime lead before Anthony Davis returned the second half kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, igniting a USC onslaught which saw them score 49 points before it was over, making the Trojan faithful ecstatic.
* 1977: Notre Dame 49, USC 19
Then-Notre Dame coach Dan Devine – who incidentally led the team during the year that “Rudy” Ruettiger finally made his dream of playing for Notre Dame a reality (still one of my favorite sports movies, by the way) – dearly wanted to motivate his team after losing to ‘SC the year before.
He achieved that by putting green jerseys in their lockers just after pre-game warm ups and before kickoff.
Needless to say, seeing their Irish wearing green drove the fans in South Bend crazy, Notre Dame feeding off of that as the Trojans didn’t stand a chance.
Perhaps the most famous play in USC football history; the “Bush Push” from 2005. Photo courtesy of thematadorsports.com
* 2005: USC 34, Notre Dame 31
If I had to name the greatest game in this history of this rivalry, it would be this one as USC was top-ranked and in the midst of the Pete Carroll dynasty while Notre Dame was a solid top ten team, ranked ninth.
The battle more than lived up to the hype as the Irish came the closest to ending the Trojans’ long win streak and bid for a third consecutive national title when with less than two minutes left, ‘SC quarterback (and then-reigning Heisman Trophy winner) Matt Leinart made the greatest pass in his program’s history, completing a 4th-down-and-eight throw to Dwayne Jarrett to the Notre Dame 15-yard line.
That eventually set up what Trojan fans would see as the most epic play of all time – and what Irish fans would see as nothing but a five-yard penalty – when with no time left Leinart, helped by a push from Reggie Bush (who would win that year’s Heisman and subsequently return it for reasons we all know), scored from less than one yard out to give USC the win, leaving everyone wearing a Notre Dame jersey on the field or gear in the stands with a pronounced sense of anger.
Does anyone believe that it’s been ten years since that chilly night in South Bend?
Even though Notre Dame is having solid season by their standards, coming into this battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh with a 5-1 record and a #14 ranking, while a well-documented turmoil regarding now ex-coach Steve Sarkisian dominates the goings on at USC, who’s currently 3-2 as they enter that iconic tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday,
It would be surprising if the game wasn’t a close, hard-fought battle that came down to the wire, as both teams have something to prove and much to play for.