When starting free safety T.J. McDonald went down on the second series with an injury, never to return, it looked like a recipe for disaster for an already undermanned USC defense.
Instead, redshirt sophomore Tony Burnett, a former jumper for the Trojans men's track and field team, took his place and played quite well considering the circumstances.
The walk-on, who was moved to safety only because of an injury to Jawanza Starling, finished with 10 tackles, second only to Smith.
"He did a great job," McDonald. "To be put in that position in a rivalry, that's a big job."
"A walk-on comes in and make some nice plays for us, played his tail off," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "He was given an opportunity and he did it."
McDonald spent the second half in a sling and street clothes with a right shoulder injury. The sophomore said he hoped to play next week.
Linebackers Step Up
For much of this season, USC linebackers had been nearly invisible.
That wasn't the case against Notre Dame.
Senior Malcolm Smith led the team with 12 tackles and had one for loss, while middle linebackers Chris Galippo and Devon Kennard each intercepted passes.
"It was my first pick," Kennard said. "It was a good feeling."
Galippo's came as he frantically tried to call a defensive audible.
"The ball was snapped. I didn't really think and I don't even remember the play," Galippo said.
Sums It Up
If one play can sum up a season, senior corner Shareece Wright dropping a potential pick-six in the fourth quarter would be it.
"Pretty much," Wright said. "It comes down to a lot of plays. Me dropping that pick could have changed the whole demeanor of the game."
Barkley Sits Out
Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley missed Saturday's game with a high ankle sprain but said he would return for next week's season finale at UCLA.
"I'm going to play next week, there's no doubt about that," Barkley said. "Whatever needs to happen I'm going to do."
The Trojans were 3-3 at the Coliseum in 2010, their worst mark since Pete Carroll's first season when the team was 4-2 but started its 35-game home winning streak.
Butch Lewis started at right tackle in place of Tyron Smith (ankle).
Cornerback Brian Baucham left the Coliseum in a neck brace, but said he sustained a shoulder injury making a tackle on a kickoff in the fourth quarter.