With the USC/Notre Dame game upon us again, I thought it would be fun to go look back at some of the better, or more meaningful games.
Again, as the theme of this blog is college football since 1967, that is a good place to start.
1968: This game was very important for the Trojans as they were battling to repeat as national champions. Notre Dame came in at 7-2 and they were without their starting quarterback Terry Hanratty. No problem, said the Notre Dame staff, here’s our sophomore quarterback of the future, Joe Theismann. However, Theismann completed his first pass to Trojan safety Sandy Durko who ran it back for a touchdown. Great quarterbacks have short memories and Theismann led the Irish to a 21-7 lead. The Fighting Irish dominated the game and held USC’s Heisman winning running back, OJ Simpson, in check all day.
The Trojans still managed to come back to tie the game 21-21. USC still played for the national
championship, but they lost to Ohio State and their famous Super Sophomores.
1969: For the second year in a row the big rivalry game ended in a tie which is no fun for anybody really. While a 14-14 tie was unfulfilling, this game was significant because of how good both teams were this season. USC had that Wild Bunch on the Defensive Line and they finished the year with a 10-0-1 record and beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
This was the year that Notre Dame broke a 50 year self-imposed ban on bowl games and they wen to the Cotton Bowl to face Texas. The Longhorns won the game and the national title in a 21-17 come from behind victory.
1970: In spite of finishing the season 5-4-1, the Trojans defeated the Fighting Irish, 38-28. Notre Dame had been 9-0 coming in and they were stunned. The now senior Theismann threw for an amazing 526 yards in a rain storm which was more than outstanding for the time period. Notre Dame had a rematch with Texas in the Cotton Bowl and this time they would prevail 24-11.
1972: This game was not really even close, but it was significant because of the quality of the USC football team in 1972. Many think this was their best all time team, but I would go with one of Pete Carroll’s teams. USC won, 45-23, and tailback Anthony Davis had a field day scoring 6 touchdowns. USC crushed Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, and Notre Dame was destroyed in the Orange Bowl by Nebraska.
1973: There was a popular myth floating around that when the Fighting Irish beat the Trojans 51-0 in 1966 that USC head coach John McKay said through clenched teeth that he would never lose to the Fighting Irish again. In 1973, the USC Trojans did lose to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 23-14. Notre Dame went to the Sugar Bowl and beat Alabama, 24-23, to win the national title.
1974: This was the famous Comeback Game. After Notre Dame scored 24 straight points to start off the game, Fighting Irish killer Anthony Davis scored right before half to make it 24-7. Davis then returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown and the route was on. USC wound up
scoring the last 55 points to win 55-24.
1977: This was the year of the famous green jersey game led by Notre Dame’s most famous player, Joe Montana. The Fighting Irish used the momentum to destroy the Trojans 49-19. Notre Dame went on to play the Texas Longhorns and their Heisman winner Earl Campbell in the Cotton Bowl and beat them convincingly to win the national championship.
1978: Down 24-6 to the Trojans, Joe Montana got hot late in the game and led his teammates to one of his many comeback wins. Only it didn’t happen. The Irish took the lead at 25-24 when the Trojans got the ball back very late and kicked a last second field goal to spoil the comeback win and staged their own. USC won 27-25 in one of the very best games in the series.
For his many comebacks, Montana did lead the Fighting Irish to a miraculous win in the Cotton Bowl over the Houston Cougars.
1982: This was a nail biter that USC won in the closing seconds, 17-13. Supposedly, USC head coach John Robinson in his last game as their coach said ‘go out and win one for the fat man’. Both teams were a little down this season with Notre Dame finishing 6-4-1 and USC 8-3.
1986: The Fighting Irish dominated this era of the rivalry, but in Lou Holtz’s first season, the Irish needed to stage a big come back to win. The Trojans were leading 37-20 in the 4th quarter when Notre Dame scored 18 straight points to win 38-37. Notre Dame finished 5-6 on the year, but it was the beginning of a new power.
1988: This was the classic #1 vs #2 match up that the media craves. Both teams were unbeaten coming in and it didn’t turn out to be a great game with the Fighting Irish pulling away for a 27-10 victory. Notre Dame went on to win the national championship which was their last.
1989: USC had supposed super quarterback Todd Marinovich and he threw 55 passes in this game leading the Trojans to a 17-7. Notre Dame countered with Tony Rice and he lead them to a comeback victory. The 28-24 Notre Dame win was their 7th in a row.
1996: The USC Trojans were terrible in 1996 and they were coming off a bad loss to rival UCLA. However, they upset the Irish 27-20 to end an 11 year winning streak for Notre Dame.
1999: USC went on a short 3 game winning streak but in a horrible season for Notre Dame, they still staged a big come back to win by one point, 25-24.
2002: This was not a good game, but it demonstrated how good the Trojans had become under
Pete Carroll. The Trojans won 8 in a row and 9 out of 10 from Notre Dame. This series has had a tendency to bounce back and forth. USC won 44-13 behind Heisman winner Carson Palmer and so much other talent.
2005: This was one of the more famous games in this rivalry. USC was the top team in the country and the media was calling them the best of all time. Notre Dame came out surprisingly feisty and this game was a battle from the opening kickoff until the very end. Charlie Weiss was the new Notre Dame coach and Brady Quinn was the Irish quarterback and he led them to a late score. The top rated Trojans came storming back behind 2004 Heisman winning quarterback Matt Leinart and 2005 Heisman winning running back Reggie Bush. It was illegal back then to push on a teammate trying to advance the football and Reggie Bush helped push Matt Leinart into the end zone to win the game with seconds left. This play will forever be known as The Bush Push. USC was the defending national champion and were expected to win another, but Texas and Vince Young beat them in the Rose Bowl in one of the best games ever.
2010: After 8 years of being dominated Notre Dame won 20-16. Brian Kelley was the new Notre Dame coach and Lane Kiffin the new USC coach.
The series has been pretty even since 2010 with USC winning last season. Notre Dame is 5-1 and USC is 6-1 and it should be a really good game.