USC Runs Away With It

Notre Dame kept Saturday night's game with USC close for a quarter, but the Trojans ran away for a 38-3 victory. The Irish offense did virtually nothing and the defense just couldn't stop the USC attack.

LOS ANGELES – Maybe it was not a good idea to bring the Notre Dame Marching Band out here after all. It certainly wasn't cost-effective.

The band made its first trip to Los Angeles since 1926, but while their counterparts blared USC's Fight On all night long, Notre Dame's band did not get a chance to raise their instruments much outside of the pregame and halftime festivities as the Trojans smoked the Irish 38-3.

During the week, Charlie Weis talked about how other teams have been able to hang in with the Trojans and his team did that…for about a quarter. After a close 15 minutes, the Trojans ran away with the convincing victory that many predicted they would.

As it turned out, Notre Dame never did really have a chance; at least its offense did not. The defense played solid at the start and kept the Irish in the game for much of the first half, but the offense just could not do anything.

Notre Dame did not earn a first down until the final play of the third quarter and did not cross midfield until the fourth quarter. The Irish finished with 91 total yards on offense while the Trojans rang up 449.

Jimmy Clausen completed half of his 22 passes, but they went for just 41 yards and he also threw a pair of interceptions. James Aldridge led the runners with 58 yards on 12 attempts, but many of those came well after the game had been decided.

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez led the Trojans' offense, completing 22 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sanchez also threw two picks, but neither was very costly. Joe McKnight gained 63 yards on just four carries while Damian Williams and Patrick Turner combined for 13 catches for 169 yards and two scores.

Charlie Weis gave credit to Pete Carroll and USC for stifling his offense.

"They just were able on defense to just line up in a cover-2 shell, which has not been their forte, they're more of a press-man, bring an extra guy down in the box," Weis said of USC's defensive approach. "But they felt they could stop us with their front seven and they were able to do that.

"They were able to get to us without having to bring any heat early in the game. Really I think that at the end of the day, the lack of productivity on offense and USC's defense led to our defense eventually wearing down and giving up more and more big plays."

Both teams turned the ball over on their opening possessions with Clausen and Sanchez each throwing interceptions.

The Irish went three-and-out on their second drive while the Trojans went on a 12-play, 79-yard drive that took 7 minutes and 11 seconds. Stafon Johnson's two-yard touchdown run gave USC a 7-0 with 4:06 left in the opening quarter. After the opening interception, Sanchez was a perfect 6 of 6 for 62 yards on the scoring drive. In fact, Sanchez went on to complete his next 11 passes

The Notre Dame defense held up pretty good after USC's second drive, but Clausen threw his second interception of the game five minutes into the second quarter and McKnight scored from 55 yards out on the very next play to give the Trojans a 14-0 lead.

Notre Dame's offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession and USC took over on its own 21. It took the Trojans just 2:33 and five plays to go 79 yards and took a 21-0 lead on Sanchez' 12-yard touchdown pass to Williams with 4:38 left in the half.

After another three-and-out, the Irish almost fell down four touchdowns, but Stafon Johnson's punt return for a touchdown was called back for a block in the back penalty. Instead, USC settled for a 35-yard field goal by David Buehler that gave USC a 24-0 halftime lead.

USC had 11 first downs on the opening two quarters and Sanchez threw for 175 yards and the Trojans gained another 90 on the ground. Meanwhile, the Irish did not register a single first down and managed just nine yards of total offense in 20 plays.

Clausen completed five of his 10 passes but they were for just 15 yards and he had the two interceptions. Clausen was sacked three times for a loss of 19 yards, which contributed to Notre Dame's first-half rushing total of minus-six yards. Allen was the leader with seven yards on four carries.

Neither team gained a first down on their initial possessions of the second half. On its second drive of the second half, USC reached the Notre Dame 2-yard line, but Kyle McCarthy picked off a Sanchez pass to prevent the threat. It did not matter though as the Trojans got the ball right back and scored on a one-yard run by Gable that pushed the lead to 31-0 with five minutes left in the third.

The Irish finally got on the board in the fourth quarter as Aldridge carried the ball seven times for 51 yards to set up a 41-yard Brandon Walker field goal with 12 minutes to play.

But the Trojans came right back with a nine-play, 84yard drive, that was capped with a 17-yard scoring pass from Sanchez to Turner, putting USC up 38-3 with eight minutes to go.

Weis said that USC is the bar and despite the score, tried to use it as a learning lesson for his guys.

"USC is a team that you have to look at when you're looking at playing for championships because that's what they do on a regular basis," he said. "You could see the discrepancy today between their football team and our football team was very wide…I said to the team afterward, I go, ‘If you ever want to be a championship team, that's what you have to be. You have to be able to beat a team like that.'"


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories