Trojans rock Irish in South Bend

It was an offensive display the likes of which the USC Trojans have never seen before in South Bend as the Trojans put up the most points ever by a USC team at Notre Dame Stadium in a 45-14 win in front of 80,795 stunned Irish faithful.

It was an offensive display the likes of which the USC Trojans have never seen before in South Bend as the Trojans put up the most points ever by a USC team at Notre Dame Stadium in a 45-14 win in front of 80,795 stunned Irish faithful.  The Trojans rode an impressive performance from quarterback Matt Leinart who was 24 of 36 passing with 351 yards and four touchdowns on the day while a trio of running backs combined for over 200 yards on the ground and both Mike Williams and Keary Colbert each had a touchdown and over 100 yards receiving. 

Offensive Explosion

From the first possession of the game the Trojan offense made it clear that this was going to be their day.  USC got the ball on the 20 after a kickoff into the end zone and proceeded to march 80 yards for a score by utilizing the combination of Matt Leinart to Keary Colbert throughout the drive.  The Irish came right back with a score of their own to tie the game and the next kickoff once again put USC on the 20.  A few plays got the ball near midfield before the Trojans reminded Notre Dame fans of one of their most bitter recruiting losses from last year.  The Irish thought Reggie Bush was headed to South Bend but after attending the Trojan victory last November in the Coliseum Bush did an about face and ended up signing with USC.  Reggie took a pitch from Leinart to the left and used his speed to head down the sideline before making a cut toward the middle and his final burst left any and all defenders in the dust on the way to the end zone.  It was the kind of play that can stun an opposing crowd but to their credit the Irish came back again and drove for another score.  To this point the game was 14-14 and it looked like it might be another USC vs Notre Dame game for the ages.  Unfortunately for the Irish, only one offense was able to keep it going for the rest of the day.  Another USC drive ended with a touchdown pass to Mike Williams and then a long pass to Bush along the sidelines put the ball inside the 10 and the Trojans quickly got into the end zone again with a short pass to Hershel Dennis and we went into the half with a 28-14 lead.  For the second year in a row the Trojan defense was able to shut out the Irish in the second half while the offense continued to pile on points with touchdowns from Gregg Guenther and Dennis as well as a field goal from Ryan Killeen.  It was a stunning performance from the Trojan offensive unit yet in some respects it was not all that surprising.  We boast as many skill players on the offensive side of the ball as any team in the country and our coordinator ranks among the best to ever call plays at the college level but we had yet to put it all together this year.  To have it happen against Notre Dame, in their hallowed stadium, makes it oh so satisfying for the legions of Trojan fans everywhere who appreciate what they saw on this day.

Notes from the Sidelines

The receiver duo of Mike Williams and Keary Colbert continue to show that they might be the best combination in the country.  Williams had 9 catches for 112 yards while Colbert added 8 for 120.  About the only thing they missed on all day was a flanker pass when Colbert overthrew the open receiver.

Lofa Tatupu returned to the starting line-up and had a solid game including 2.5 tackles for loss and 10 total tackles on the day.

Kenechi Udeze had a monster game along the line while contributing in a number of ways.  BKU had two sacks, he batted down a pass, he forced a fumble and added 6 total tackles, including two for loss.

The stable of talented young running backs for the Trojans showcased how dangerous they can be when used together.  The speed of Reggie Bush was evident on his long TD run while his reception was just as impressive.  Hershel Dennis caught a score and ran for one while LenDale White continued his hard running with 75 tough yards.

Melvin Simmons played like a captain with a team high 13 tackles on a day when Matt Grootegoed was unable to go the whole game due to his ankle injury.  Simmons and the other LB's were determined to fill the void left by Groots and they succeeded.

Key to the Game— Leinart on a roll

When the Trojans and Irish met last November we saw a record setting performance from Carson Palmer which basically sealed the Heisman Trophy for the USC quarterback.  Matt Leinart isn't going to be handed any trophies based upon his showing this past Saturday but the effort was every bit as solid and precise as anything we saw from Palmer last year.  Matt has seen his share of rocky moments early in his career as a USC starter but lately he has found a groove and at no time was that more evident than in fabled Notre Dame Stadium.   His reputation as a cool customer was sure to be tested in a environment that can shake even the most veteran players, especially those who played at a catholic high school such as Mater Dei and once thought of playing for the Irish, yet Leinart spread the ball around and was on target with his passes all day while never allowing the Notre Dame defense a chance to relax.  A tribute must go to the Trojan offensive line for the lack of pressure on Matt as he was rarely under a serious rush and he took advantage by sitting back and picking apart a defense that came in with fairly impressive numbers on the year.  It was only a few weeks ago that some USC fans were questioning whether or not Leinart had what it took to replace Palmer as quarterback for the Trojans but if this game is any indication of what's in store for the future those questions have been put soundly to rest.

Extra Points 

Darnell Bing had the best performance we've seen from him as a Trojan with 11 total tackles.  Darnell has been hampered by a lingering ankle injury but as he heals and adjusts to the defense his star will continue to rise because he will become even more aggressive …..….Anthony Munoz paid a visit to Trojan practice before the game and spoke of how he went 3-1 against Notre Dame with the only loss coming against a Joe Montana team.  As he said that, Montana walked out of the Notre Dame tunnel and onto the field.  Only in the USC vs ND rivalry could that happen….Gregg Guenther subbed for the injured Dominique Byrd and showed himself well.  Not only did he have a touchdown reception but he added a terrific downfield block on the Bush touchdown run…...After giving up touchdowns on the first two possessions the USC defense made adjustments and forced seven straight Notre Dame punts….USC only punted once on the day…..Marcell Allmond saved a touchdown with a tackle on a kickoff return by Julius Jones…..John Drake got the start ahead of Fred Matua at RG but eventually moved to LT after Jacob Rogers left the game with a knee injury….The pursuit of the Trojan defensive ends was amazing.  They are so quick from sideline to sideline and never give up on a play.  They are relentless….Ryan Killeen added another field goal on his only attempt as he has been solid since the Cal game...The Trojans did not intercept a pass for the 1st time in 17 games.

Final Thoughts

Well, it's official.  This 2003 Trojan team has officially established an identity of their own with the dominant victory on the road in South Bend.  Up until this point there had been comparisons with the squad that brought us a "Return to Glory".  As we broke out to a 3-1 start we heard the comments "yes, they are good but are they as good as last year?" and after the stumble against Cal those whispers turned even louder.  Too many young players, too many seniors to replace.  Even among the players there was a sense of not being sure if they were deserving of a top national ranking with a nagging thought that maybe some of the praise came as a result of what was accomplished last season.  Now, however, there is little doubt among the team that they are not only deserving of whatever ranking comes their way but that they are not close to accomplishing all that is possible this year.  We are seven games into the season and things are clicking at a fairly good pace right now.  The Notre Dame fans, much like UCLA fans last year after our 27-0 spanking in 2001, thought that the dominant victory the previous season was a fluke but they quickly found out that wasn't the case.  The Trojan players heard all the stories of how tough it is to win in South Bend, of how the ghosts of Notre Dame Stadium can play havoc with the elements and cause even the mightiest of USC teams to leave shaking their heads in wonder.  These players heard all those stories and they didn't pay any attention, they simply went out on the field and got the job done the way they have been prepared by the Trojan coaches.  When it's time to throw the ball, you throw it to the open receiver.  When it's time to run, you run hard.  When it comes time for us to play defense, oh boy, just sit back and enjoy because we're going to be flying around from sideline to sideline getting after it.  There aren't too many things that are going to build confidence for a football team better than going out and executing the way we did on Saturday.  The ghosts of that stadium are real, it's not an accident that USC had won only 9 previous times in South Bend, but this team has the ability to overcome most any obstacle through the sheer force of their talent.  We simply had too many weapons for the Irish. The victory on Saturday was complete domination and the great thing for Trojan fans is that it was led primarily by skill players with a SO or FR designation next to their name on the roster.  We've heard so much about the recruiting classes being put together by Pete Carroll and company and the results of those efforts are starting to pay off.  Carroll has this group believing that anything is possible and the reality is that we're good enough to make anything happen.  Now comes the stretch run of Pac-10 play and you can be sure that every team on our schedule is scratching their heads right now trying to figure out the best way to stop the Trojans.  Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu may be in the NFL these days but make no mistake about it that you will need to deal with Matt Leinart, Mike Williams, LenDale White, Reggie Bush and the rest of the new look Trojans.  If you thought last year was a fluke, think again, these Trojans are for real. Top Stories