I could run the stats by you but we don't really have that kind of time. 9 wins in 33 visits in our history, that's the only real number to look at here. I won there in 1997 with my teammates and Coach Robinson but it took a field goal from Adam Abrams and a couple lucky bounces. USC dominated Notre Dame in South Bend in front of their huge student section wearing bright green t-shirts, a bunch of tall dudes on the sidelines wearing kilts, Rudy, Touchdown Jesus, first down Moses and Tyrone Willingham, the angry little rooster of a man. It was pretty cool to see. It was three hours of entertainment. Pete Carroll kind of owns Notre Dame. I've been watching football for a long time, I'm only 26 years old, but I've never seen Notre Dame humiliated like that before in a football game. I'll get back to the game in a moment but first I would like to address the issue of the City of Chicago.
As a player we were always tucked away in Michigan City, Indiana. You can imagine it's not the type of place to go to lose one's self. I had no knowledge that the city of Chicago was not only one of the most exciting cities I've ever been too but it's also taken over by people who love the university and apparently watch local cable television and listen to local sports radio. I had a great time except for the afternoon I went over to Wrigley Field and expected to be around happy people, that was a mistake. The rest of it was very memorable. My only regret was flying out after the game with the team when I really wanted to go back to Chicago and debauch myself.
I did have the great pleasure while in Chicago of dining at the Billy Goat Tavern, owned and operated by Greeks since the 1930's. The Billy Goat Tavern is not only the source of the apparent Chicago Cubs curse but also the inspiration behind John Belushi's Saturday Night Live skit with the cook screaming "Cheeseborger, Cheeseborger, Cheeseborger". I did not see the goat, and being Greek the goat is one of the few animals I feel a connection to (I guess he hasn't been around there in at least 20 year) but I did enjoy a cheeseborger.
Back to some of the exciting logistics of the game. Matt Leinart turned from the semi-supported quarterback of the present and into a legend of the USC vs Notre Dame series. He was precise, he was confident, he put up incredible numbers and he did it all while exciting sorority girls from coast to coast on a national broadcast. I don't know if he's still banged up or not but at this point he looks a lot like Carson Palmer did last year (just not as fast), you have to really look at Norm Chow and say…damn, this guy really does know how to coach a quarterback and run an offense. USC has hit their stride offensively in a big way. All it took was the emergence of a run game and for Norm Chow to exert the balance that is necessary to run a highly explosive offense. Leinart made the game fun to watch. Checking off receivers, baiting defenders, and making it all look pretty easy. I've always been a little skeptical of his ability to lead the team but he raised my inconsequential eyebrows and really wowed the country.
Running backs and offensive line. Reggie Bush was smooth and awesome on the perimeter. LenDale White and Hershel Dennis both brought it hard at the line of scrimmage. It looks like the competition created at running back with the arrival of LenDale White as an every down battering ram has really lit a fire in Kennedy Pola's backfield. It almost seems like a contest between the three guys to see who can perform. I really like the way they all attack the line of scrimmage. USC's offensive line has found a bona fide dominator in John Drake. I'm not sure if I just watch him at the right time but to me the guy seems like a very big and angry tackle or guard and he carries 350 very well and is light on his feet. With Jacob Rogers hurting a little he will help fill in and do an excellent job. With a healthy Eric Torres, a shockingly lean and nasty Lenny Vandermade, a healthy Winston Justice and Norm Katnik leading the charge at center, the SC O-line is looking solid in the middle of the season as they begin the stretch run of the Pac-10.
Tight end and wide receivers. The Lurch-like Gregg Guenther continues to impress this year by making plays in all aspects of the game. He caught his first touchdown pass but not before he had a great downfield block springing Reggie Bush on his long TD run. Mike Williams and Keary Colbert are stars. They're both nationally known star wide receivers. Sometimes it sounds redundant but nothing is more true than the fact that they complement each other perfectly and are both as dominant at their positions as anybody in the country right now.
USC's defense did not look as overwhelmingly stellar as the offense did. They couldn't seem to stop the run early, Julius Jones looked like a Heisman Candidate, Brady Quinn, who is not Joe Theisman, was looking like Joe Montana. As he has been known to do, Pete Carroll didn't wait until halftime to make adjustments and basically figured them out by the end of the first quarter. Notre Dame's defense, on the other hand, didn't have USC's offense figured out until the end of the fourth quarter and by then most of the Midwestern Catholics had ducked into their respective whiskey bars in Chicago. Matt Grootegoed had to leave the game with a lot of pain coming along with his high ankle sprain, he probably shouldn't have played into this one at all. He may have to be patient this week and let himself heal. The guy is a warrior and he gave it a shot and made some plays but it may be too much this week. That doesn't mean he still doesn't have a legitimate shot at the Butkus. Dallas Sartz filled in very well despite having a knee bruise of his own and will be a big time player for the Trojans in the stretch run and in the future. The rest of the guys looked great. The defensive line was awesome as the game progressed, they seemed to get hungrier as the game went along when most d-lines start to wither. Kenechi Udeze played his best football game against a pretty beat up and young Notre Dame offensive line.
Now it's on to Seattle and it's going to be tough to leave the counter culture freaks and Midwestern sophisticates of Chicago to say hello to the grunge rockers, coffee drinkers and internet geeks of the world in the Northwest. That's OK, it's a nice city and the only time I was ever there before was in 1997 when me and the rest of JRob's boys didn't cross the 50 yard line. This trip should prove to be more fruitful than that one. Washington may have beat Oregon State in Corvallis but two weeks ago they lost to Nevada, the Wolfpack. I don't care if Michael Jordan played quarterback for the Wolfpack, they should never beat Washington. I don't care if Washington's entire team is caught in a tournament pool and suspended and they have to run the cheerleaders out there, they should still beat Nevada. It could be a tough game but SC seems to be striding out in the same fashion as the better part of last season. It should be a good time. Fight On.
Petros Papadakis can be heard each morning on KMPC radio (1540am) from 9-10. He is also the sideline radio reporter and pre-game host for Trojan football broadcasts on KMPC. Petros is a football analyst with Fox Sports Net on the Southern California Sports Report and the host of the "USC Sports Magazine" show. This fall he will begin his 2nd season as the sideline reporter for the High School Game of the Week on Fox Sports Net covering the top HS games in Southern California. He will also be providing this column after each Trojan game and a regular monthly article in the WeAreSC magazine.