It was the Best of Trojans

The Trojans' have been doubted and questioned all year long, but a statement win against a rival like Notre Dame showcased a team that is only getting better with wins.

Ed Orgeron said it was the best his team has played in two seasons.

James Cregg said his offensive line's performance against Notre Dame was their best so far this season.

Kennedy Polamalu said the running game was the best it's looked in 2011.

And it was, by most accounts, the best game of Lane Kiffin's coaching career.

It wasn't a shutout by any means. But the Trojans' 31-17 win in South Bend, Ind. against rival Notre Dame was a shut-up.

Those who doubted the Trojans' running game were silenced, after rushing for 219 yards compared to the 41 netted by the Irish.

Others who questioned USC's offensive line, which helped spark that running game, were left with open mouths: only two penalties were assessed to the front five, one committed by a true freshman. And again the Southern California quarterback went without a sack.

To the skeptics who were hesitant about the Trojans' ability to force turnovers, a hush descends. A recovered fumble and interception swung the momentum back in the visiting team's direction.

Now 6-1, the Trojans' regain the bullseye left behind after ASU. Back comes the hype. Back comes ESPN Gameday. Throw in the AP ranking, the attention and, of course, the haters and it's almost like USC of old, no?

No. It was one solid win on the road. While we may not be going back in time, the win was still a truly impressive showing from two-thirds of a team that had been short on consistency and high on momentum swings.

But what this team is beginning to regain like the Trojans of yester-year is a similar confidence. And the same pride. And a comparable maturity.

"That's a sign of this group, maturing and I just love the toughness and i love their mental toughness and it's just a joy to coach them," Polamalu gushed.

"They were locked in and focused and [did] what they needed to do. I'm proud of them," Cregg said.

"They knew the task at hand. I thought overall everybody gave their best effort today," Orgeron remarked.

The Trojans' "best" was a blend of composure, intelligence and intensity. USC could have easily lost its calm when the Irish attempted to drown out the playcalling with every trip into the red zone, blasting bands like Ozzy Osbourne from its speakers. USC could also have easily fallen captive to silly mistakes, especially after its special teams' allowed a 96-yard touchdown off a returned kick. Lastly, USC could have buckled under the pressure of the electric atmosphere under the lights. Instead, fear was replaced by fire.

And so, as the Trojans' put points on the board, an eerie silence blanketed Notre Dame stadium. Irish fans knew they were witnessing the Trojans' "best."

Just like the USC of old, good teams win in bad conditions.

And Notre Dame, along with the rest of the country, saw that this wasn't a team that different from the one a few years back.

Sure there is a new coaching staff, different stars and that cloudy postseason sanction hovering over their helmets.

But it's the same program that finds a way to win.

And it's the same team that will always relish beating the Irish. Top Stories