Game notes: Notre Dame vs. USCPublished 10:16am Sunday, October 18, 2009
By SCOTT NOVAK
Dowagiac Daily News
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the fifth straight time, Notre Dame played a game right down to the wire.
But on Saturday against the No. 6 ranked USC Trojans, the Fighting Irish came up a play short.
Sandwiched between fourth quarter loses at Michigan and to USC, Notre Dame had won three straight close games.
Weather or not
Notre Dame didn’t get an assist from the weather on Saturday as the skies were mostly sunny and the temperature was going to be moderate.
In a perfect scenario, it would have been much colder and wet, forcing the Trojans to brave the elements as well as the Fighting Irish.
The only weather condition that was of concern was a strong wind blowing from end zone to end zone.
Saturday was a showcase day for Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
While his name is being thrown around for the Heisman Trophy race, it hasn’t carried a lot of weight through the first five games.
However, in rambling through the pre-game notes, there was a comparison between Clausen and the previous five Heisman winning quarterbacks.
His passing efficiency rating was third best. He had the second best total passing yards (1,544) and was tied for first in fewest interceptions thrown (2) and tied for third in touchdown passes (12).
His passing percentage of 67.6 was third best. He was also second in yards per game at 308.8.
You can tell it’s a big game when…
The press box was as full as it has been all season. In scanning the media list, it appears the national press still has a place in its heart for this long-time rivalry.
It was also a celebrity “A” list for the University level of the press box. Guests included Regis, Rocket Ismail and Joe Theismann.
And 23,532 fans show up for the Friday pep rally.
What a series
Starting in 1926 when Knute Rockne became the first Midwest coach to take a team out west, Notre Dame-USC has been something special.
Although the Trojans have dominated recently, Notre Dame still owns the overall lead with a record of 42-33-5. The Fighting Irish are 23-12-1 at home against USC.
However, the Trojans have won the last seven meetings between the two teams and three straight in Notre Dame Stadium.
USC has won four of the last six games played at Notre Dame.
Talent to spare
Despite constantly losing plays to the National Football League, the Trojans just keep plugging in talented players at every position.
USC is an extremely young team, listing just four seniors as starters on defense and offense.
It’s all about having fun
There probably isn’t a head coach in all of college football who has more fun than USC’s Pete Carroll.
As usual, Carroll came out before most of his team and played a little catch with one of the Trojan ball boys.
Members of an Army parachute team jumped into Notre Dame Stadium prior to the start of the game. The last to land delivered the game ball to the delight of the sell out crowd.
Michael Floyd came out in full uniform for the Fighting Irish, but he did not come out on the field when the team went on the offensive. He spent the rest of the afternoon on the bench watching.
Notre Dame fans were certainly revved up for the start of the game. The crowd was as loud as it has been all season long.
On it’s second drive of the game, USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and his talented
group of receivers made the Fighting Irish secondary look suspect.
Notre Dame in just five games had given up 1318 yards and eight touchdowns. Opponents are averaging 12.4 yards per reception.
In the USC touchdown drive, the Trojans averaged 36 yards per catch.
Trick and treat
Notre Dame used a fake field goal attempt to set up its first touchdown.
Eric Maust took the snap and hit an uncovered Robby Paris, who was pushed out at the 2-yard line.
Robert Hughes then bulled his way into the end zone.
To begin the second quarter, the Trojans began to run “Student Body Right” and “Student Body Left” for great success. They followed it up with a run through the heart of the Irish defense to set up their second score.
Give me a break
Notre Dame could not pick up a break in the opening half.
Calls went against the Fighting Irish and so did a punt at the end of the second quarter that skipped back to the punter and then was kicked down to the 10-yard line of Notre Dame.
With Notre Dame driving to start the second half, the Trojan defense came with a big stop on fourth and short at the 32-yard line to turn the Fighting Irish away.
Notre Dame went with a drive right into the middle of the line that came up a half a yard short.
In a game that had been pretty much dominated by defense, USC pulled off a big play to open up a 20-7 lead on the Fighting Irish.
The Trojans used a trips formation and Notre Dame did not have enough bodies to that side of the field to stop Damian Williams, who raced untouched into the end zone.
Irish return the favor
Notre Dame answered the USC touchdown with a big play of its own as Jimmy Clausen hit Golden Tate for a 45-yard scoring strike. It was the first time the Fighting Irish really went down field on the Trojans.
Right back at you
The Trojans roared right back down the field and reclaimed a 13-point advantage as it drove 73 yards on five plays using up just 2:43. The big play in the drive was a 60-yard pass play from Barkley to 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end Anthony McCoy.
Offense heats up
The USC offense got warmed up in the second half as the sun started going down and the temperatures were dropping.
The Trojans took to the air and began eating up big chunks of yardage against the Notre Dame secondary.
Pick a receiver, any receiver
It didn’t seem to matter to Barkley whom to throw the ball to. They were all open.
USC wide receivers seemed to be open all over the field. Notre Dame appeared at times to be outnumbered by the Trojans.
Despite the fact that Notre Dame put Tate back on kickoff returns, the Trojans kicked the ball to him every time.
Oh where oh where is the tight end?
Despite having one of the best tight ends in the country, Notre Dame continues to ignore Kyle Rudolph for most of the game.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Rudolph had just three catches for nine yards.
It all comes down to one play
With 42 seconds left on the clock, Notre Dame was down to its final play. With fourth and 10, Clausen connected with Parris and a personal foul set the Irish up first and goal. Another personal foul call gave Notre Dame the ball at the 4-yard line.
Down to one play, part 2
With four seconds left, Clausen’s pass was incomplete. Upon further review, the clock had one second remaining and the Fighting Irish lived to run one more play.
With camera flashes going off around Notre Dame Stadium, Clausen’s final pass was off target and the Trojans escaped with the victory.
The Fighting Irish were bidding to win their fourth straight game in the final quarter or overtime.
In fact, Notre Dame’s last five games have come down to the wire.