The Not So Obvious Matt Leinart¹s four-second 1-yard pretzel plunge with three seconds remaining will be remembered in these parts as another glorious chapter not only in the fierce rivalry that is USC and Notre Dame, but in the storied annals of Southern California football. For the thousands of Trojans fans that came to the Midwest unknowing they were about to witness history, it was the Notre Dame Weekender of weekenders. Come now with the O/NSO as we give our annual Chicago/South Bend account of an incredible four days along Lake Michigan.
THURSDAY Oct. 13
7:00 a.m. Alarm goes off and the mind is dashing about heading to the Midwest and hoping the alarm goes off for the Trojans in their recent and alarming first half performances. It¹s Notre Dame time and new coach Charlie Weis is making the O/NSO a believer with his team¹s early performances.
8:45 Upon returning a rental car for our daughter¹s earlier fender-bender, 1540 has Tony Bruno and Mark Willard interviewing some guy that is doing the best Lou Holtz impression that I¹ve ever heard. Bruno and Willard are in stitches and can hardly control their laughter. It¹s so freaking funny I think I am going to regurgitate my oat bran breakfast. As a Holtz impressionist, this caller constantly says, "Notre Dame, our Lady." And other typical cliches from "Granny." It all adds to the flavor of the upcoming weekend.
9:10 Before getting ready to leave for Orange County¹s John Wayne Airport, the little woman wants to watch some Regis and Kelly. Old Philbin is talking about the past games. He says he¹s not going because the Trojans have had 31-point victories each time he has gone to the game, so he¹s not going out of superstition. Of course, we knew it was time to leave for JW when Philbin had the audience standing and clapping to the Notre Dame Victory March.
10:40 WeAreSC's Garry P. checks in to confirm the O/NSO Notre Dame edition is going to be posted before 11:00, since we are both going to the airport. When you write the O/NSO, the only fear bigger than a defensive back trying to tackle Reggie Bush one-on-one is clicking on the "Post It" sign for fear of a typo or unintended blunder.
11:00 Grandma Anne, an Irish Catholic, arrives at the abode to take me and the lady to the airport. The game is so big that Grandma Anne is asking about SC and Notre Dame. Back in Wisconsin, she used to live next to Pete Demerle, a former outstanding Irish receiver. She knows her Notre Dame.
11:08 John Wayne shows no signs of Trojan life. Where are the cardinal and gold fans for the 12:30 p.m. American flight? Guess the horde of Trojan fans heading to Chicago must have left earlier. Oh no, I see the blue and gold of Notre Dame showing up. Did I miss something? Trojans fans leave in the morning and Irish fans get the noon takeoff?
11:25 Head to the airport indoor McDonalds where the server is wearing red, a good sign. The server says she has served a lot of Trojan fans earlier and really "only two" Irish fans. Yes, strength in numbers.
11:35 Run into Orange County Register sports columnist Steve Bisheff, a Trojan grad, who is coming back from Chicago following the controversial third-strike call of the second game of the ALCS between the Angels and White Sox. Steve says he¹s real concerned about the Trojans in South Bend because they are really the first team to present a potent offensive attack that can score points and control the clock.
11:55 Board Flight # 5438 and suddenly there are Trojan fans everywhere. The plane takes a decidedly cardinal and gold look until those two Irish fans show up and get booed by the Trojan fans. We are awaiting takeoff on the tarmac and the plane is suddenly Notre Dame Stadium. Shouts of "Fight On" and "Let¹s Go, Irish" fill the cabin.
11:59 Can¹t believe we are in Row 13 and there is not window. Worse yet, the guy sitting to my left looks like Lou Holtz. Are you kidding me? Even my wife agrees and starts laughing. Oy veh!
12:12 p.m. Start to write in the diary and get a tap on the shoulder. It¹s old coaching buddy Pat O¹Hara from Kennedy High, former basketball coach of ND wide receiver Rhema McKnight. Coach Pat tells me McKnight will not play on Saturday because his injury has not healed. Shhhhh, this is hush-hush stuff. McKnight is a really quick and physical receiver and the Trojans are fortunate the former Kennedy High star is not playing.
12:30 Takeoff!!! Midwest, here we come! Flight suddenly becomes as quiet as the Trojans blowout of the Irish two years ago at Notre Dame Stadium. Maybe the pre-flight pep rally has already drained the masses. Oh, Lord, forgot to tell our daughter to tape Saturday¹s game. Yikes!!!!
1:00 In-flight movie is "Fantastic Four." Wow, it must be a highlight film of Leinart, Bush, White, and Jarrett. Who knew?
6:00 CST We get into O'hare Aiport and have to sit for 45 minutes on the tarmac because we arrive early. Hope this isn¹t how the Trojan offense starts to feel with the Charlie Weis ball control offense on the field. BTW, the Lou Holtz fella sitting next to me turns out to be a Trojan fan whose brother-in-law is on the USC Board of Trustees.
7:30 Traffic is so heavy into Chicago that it¹s a good excuse to get off at Addison Avenue and drive by Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubbies. The little woman says, "C'mon, you used the traffic as an excuse to drive to Wrigley." Oh that woman¹s intuition. Wrigley is the coolest baseball park in the majors, and I always feel I am in the middle of the 1940s with all the apartments behind the outfield. Do yourself a favor next time you¹re in the Windy City and hit this treasure.
8:30 - Arrive at the Chicago Sheraton and Towers, host hotel for the Trojans alums. We get a room on the 11th floor overlooking the Chicago River with a slight view of Lake Michigan. Outside our window is a building with huge lights that say "Go Sox."
9:00 Eat dinner at Webers Grill, a restaurant owned by the BBQ maker of the same name. The ribs, chicken, and the corn bread are excellent. It¹s as satisfying as an Oscar Lua fourth-and-one run stuffer.
10:15 Return to the Sheraton and the Trojan Marching Band is in the lobby. Run into former legendary Orange County prep baseball coach Ron LaRuffa, who is overwhelmed by his first trip to Chicago and, of course, Wrigley Field. My memory wants to tell me that Ron was the prep coach of Jeff Kent of the Dodgers, but I could be wrong on that one. He says he can¹t wait to see his first USC/ND game in South Bend. It¹s more than a game, it¹s an event.
10:30 The Mrs. and your humble correspondent walk into the bar area and a guest walks up to us and says, "I hope you guys (USC) kill Notre Dame. Please, kill¹em." The guy says he is not a Trojan fan but just hates the Irish.
FRIDAY October 14
12:00 a.m. Time for the little woman and I to do some adult scrimmaging and suddenly "Conquest" pops into my brain. Sick, isn¹t it?
12:52 I am back. Check the Internet for some post-game cool down and everybody on the Internet is picking the Irish. The Sporting News Matt Hayes writes "Notre Dame can do it." Seattle PI writer Ted Miller writes "After 27 consecutive victories and consecutive national titles and panegyrics and economiums and other five dollar words fluttering like Hollywood starlets in awe of the greatest team in history, USC will lose at Notre Dame." Wow, these guys are going to give me nightmares. Mommy, I can¹t get to sleep. I am afraid. Lights out.
9:30 Wakeup. Fetch the paper and the front page of USA Today has a picture of Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn, the Irish quarterback. Headline reads "No Bigger Game." Story asks the question: Can the ND defense stop USC¹s potent offensive? Excellent interviews with previous defensive coordinators of fallen Trojan opponents. All conclude it is possible but highly improbable. It would take a large lottery number of Irish luck to make it happen. The madam, of course, watches Regis and Kelly before we go out.
11:00 Head to the Navy Pier for the annual pep rally with the Trojan Marching Band. As we walk, three Trojan fans debate the merits of the StubHub ticket agency and is it better to try and get tickets for Saturday¹s game from a scalper.
11:15 Arrive at Navy Pier, where the entrance has a copper statue of comedian Bob Newhart as Dr. Rob Hartley from Newhart¹s successful televison show. The "statue" has Newhart sitting on a couch with an adjacent couch for visitors like us to sit on. The statue is presented by TVLand.
11:17 Two fans say they may have found two tickets for sale and are giddy. Two more fans have a sign that says "We need tickets." It isn¹t the last sign we see at the Rally. This is really the toughest ticket that we can remember. Free cardinal and gold pom poms are being passed out to fans.
12:10 p.m. In an act of God, two tickets are sold for $100 each. We¹d be shocked to see that type of value for tickets the rest of the way. A massive crowd has now gathered at the Navy Pier and this could be a bigger turnout than normal because many locals have also come to see the Spirit of Troy. Suddenly crowd grows impatient and begins the Southern California spellout. Place goes bonkers.
12:15 Band finally shows and fans are ready to party. Pom poms start to wave, the noise level increases, and all you need is Pete Carroll¹s boys coming off a boat off Lake Michigan and it would be complete. The weather is perfect.
12:20 Fanfare, Tribute to Troy, and Fight On commence from Dr. Bartner¹s troops and everything goes as positive as the Trojans in the second half of a game. A ND fan is selling four tickets at $500 each. Trojan fans start the cell phone symphony. If you really don¹t care how much you spend, you can get in the game.
1:50 Following the concert, we take a cab to the Chicago Art Institute. Why? Because it makes the other half happy. While she looks at "The Petite Creuse River" by Claude Monet, I think of Dwayne Jarrett on the receiving end of a Matt Leinart deep ball. Everybody interprets art differently, as I always say. Shhhhh, I see other Trojan fans taking in the famous art displays. I can just read the eyes of my fellow men who are also dreaming of the Leinart to Jarrett combination as their wives give them some art history.
3:30 Head over to the Oriental Theatre to see if we can get "game day" tickets for the play "Wicked." None are available, but we can enter a drawing at the Borders Bookstore for front row seats for that night at $25 per seat. Hmmmmm. "Wicked" is what I hope the Trojans¹ front four will be when Irish QB Brady Quinn goes to pass.
6:00 Well, we lost the "Wicked" lottery. So what else is new? The only lottery the O/NSO ever won was No. 111 in the draft almost four decades ago. So, we follow through with our Harry Caray restaurant reservations. After dinner, we start to leave the sports restaurant and receive a greeting from Reggie Bush¹s parents, who see we are in our WeAreSC attire.
7:47 Head back to the Sheraton and it¹s time for the hotel¹s indoor Trojan pep rally. Former Trojan coach John Robinson appears and speaks to a huge, adoring crowd. Robinson says, "They (ND) thinks they are on their way back; we¹re going to send them back. When you go into that stadium and think about all the great Trojans, think about the No. 1 Trojan of all time, Marv Goux." This brings the house down. J.R. can still pontificate with the best of them.
7:51 Run into Nick Sanchez, the father of freshman quarterback Mark Sanchez, who just came into town tonight with his wife. Nick, whose son will dress but not play in order to preserve his redshirt year, says he was with Mark on his recruiting trip to ND, but they didn¹t attend a game. Nick said that finding a place to stay in Chicago was tough, so they are staying in nearby Deerfield. Although Mark isn¹t playing on Saturday, Nick says Mark is still very excited for the game.
8:00 Decide to check out the silent auction as the rally continues. An autographed picture of Matt Leinart is up to $800, a signed Pete Carroll football has risen to $1000, and a signed Mike Williams¹ Detroit Lion jersey is a $400. There are also $15 T-shirts on sale that reads "Make ND puke" and shirts relating to the last 31-point Trojan wins over the Irish.
8:30 Conquest is played and the rally ends. Don¹t know about the Trojan team that is staying at the Holiday Inn in Michigan City, but the fans are ready to rumble. Even Art Bartner¹s voice is hoarse from being the emcee of the evening.
8:35 Run into Gary the shot clock operator for the Laker games at the Staple Center. He tells the O/NSO that he has rented a limo for the game. So what did you expect from an employee of Dr. Buss? We¹ll just drive our Minnesota-plated Chevy intermediate on the Indiana Toll Road tomorrow.
9:00 Check our cell messages and WeAreSC¹s photographer Joe Andras calls with a report from South Bend. Joe says the Notre Dame Pep Rally must have had 70% of the stadium full, and he goes through a list of celebs including Rudy, Joe Montana, and Tim Brown. He goes on to say the whole deal is being televised live (ESPN News). Andras says that "Rudy" was teaching the massive gathering how to disrupt Matt Leinart when he calls signals or goes to an audible.
11:40 Make the final Sheraton lobby walk of the evening and an ND fan is at the bar trying sell his allotment of six game tickets for $600 each. He flashes the tickets and Trojan fans flash the forgetaboutit sign. Go upstairs for one last Internet round and then hit the hay.
SATURDAY Oct. 15
7:30 a.m. It¹s Game Day!!! This morning¹s Chicago Tribune has a story how important today¹s game is to the recruiting and cites the example of Reggie Bush, who was headed to ND until he attended a Trojan/Irish game. As I read the story, it reminds me that this may be Reggie¹s final game against the Irish, since he will likely be headed to the NFL after his junior year. It also reminds me of the latest interview of Pete Carroll by Fox television¹s Chris Meyers who asked about Trojans leaving early for the NFL. Carroll says he made a mistake in evaluating Lofa Tatupu, saying that Tatupu is doing to fine in Seattle and that he is happy for him.
7:40 Reading the Chicago Tribune, I check the high school rankings and Joliet Catholic is ranked No. 1. Joliet Catholic is playing St. Patricks today and since Joliet Catholic is the same school for ND¹s Rudy, I wonder which game he will attend. Yeah, tough decision...not.
9:00 Outside the Sheraton, a guy yells from a car, "Go Irish." All right, Mr.Domer, Game on!!!!! We ready. We ready. We ready, for y¹all!
9:30 Depart for South Bend ahead of bus caravan. Traffic is so bad, you¹d think you are in LA.
10:45 Garry P. calls to check in and see where we are. We are now in Hammond, Ind., thanks to the heavy traffic. He reports that CB John Walker is not feeling well and suddenly I am not feeling well. How many DBs can the Trojan lose?
10:50 Basketball Hall of Fame Writer Frank Burlison of Scout.com checks in and let¹s me listen to ESPN GameDay announce who they think will win this afternoon¹s game. Corso picks the Trojans and "Herbie" picks the Irish. Frank tells me that Corso with a Trojan helmet on looks like Mel Brooks in the movie History of the World.
11:15 Drive by the Knute Rockne Plaza and the lighted billboard says "Beat USC." Need I say we¹re getting closer to the home of the Golden Dome?
11:18 As we drive deeper into northern Indiana, leaves are turning "cardinal and gold," a good sign as the opposite side of the road looks mighty ND gold. A number of limos drive by with USC flags waving. We are not alone. Cows continue to graze and don¹t seem to care one bit about the biggest intersectional game in the country.
11:25 It¹s 64 degrees and pretty windy, a bad sign for a guy with a WeAreSC jacket and a pair of shorts. The coolness because of the wind reminds of coming to South Bend in 1995 and it was rain and sleet and disaster for the undefeated Trojans that day.
11:30 Yes, Exit 77 and Notre Dame is three miles away and NOooooooooo, there is bumper to bumper traffic. This is going to be a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnng three miles. This is like trying to get off of Lincoln Ave into the Rose Bowl, if you know what I mean.
12:23 p.m. FINALLY park at Saint Mary¹s College and must take a "Free" tram that actually costs $2 per person. Before you get excited about the $15 parking fee, remember they said free shuttle on the sign. Wow, this is getting more LA by the moment.
12:30 After getting dropped off at the Notre Dame bookstore, we fast-walk to the tunnel entrance to the stadium to watch the Trojans come off the bus. Afraid we might have missed the "South Bend Trojan Walk" we literally walk into the Notre Dame team approaching the stadium entrance. With due respect, this is not an imposing looking team that Charlie Weis has, but you don¹t measure heart by size. Don¹t see coach Weis but we walk behind Irish team through the spirit tunnel for laughs and good column notes. A camera from the highly successful Fox Trojan Rewind show catches us behind the Irish and zooms in on my WeAreSC jacket. Hey, what¹s wrong with a little advertising? Besides, I raised the No. 1 in the nation finger. Isn¹t that what a fan site is supposed to do? Yeah, yeah, a cheap and unworthy stunt. Forgive us, please.
12:33 The Trojan buses arrive and they start literally rocking back and forth as the Men of Troy are getting themselves in a tizzy. The "other half" asks if it¹s the Irish fans rocking the bus. I assure her it¹s Pete Carroll¹s boys having a little pep rally. She is stunned, but so are the Irish fans around the buses. Out they come, the No. 1 team in the country and a couple next to us in the spirit line are stunned by the size and "manliness" of the defending national champions. Suddenly "We Are SC" breaks out along with "Let¹s Go Irish." All the while, the Trojan players come out looking cool, some smiling and many hugging John "Godfather" Papadakis. The Trojans are in their element as No. 1. Matt Leinart comes out listening to "sounds" and very concentrated. Reggie Bush also looks like he can¹t wait to exchange helmet paint with the Irish.
12:50 After eating a hot dog in the Athletic and Convocation Center (ACC), we see one of a number of "signs" relating to Matt Leinart. One reads "Matt Leinart sleeps with Nick Lachey. Brady Quinn sleeps with Jessica Simpson. Advantage Irish." Nothing like some good, wholesome Catholic University adult humor.
2:12 We take our game seats and Trojan public address voice Dennis Packer announces the intro for the Trojan Marching Band. The TMB comes out to a chorus of Notre Dame student body boos and "Let¹s Go Irish!" Conquest is played and the ND students cry "Go Irish..Beat the Trojans."
2:15 The Irish band enters the field and gets a standing ovation. The wife says, "That¹s one mighty big band," and the ND musicians play "Fight On¹ for the visitors. Trojan band director Bartner is guest conductor for the National Anthem. Trojan celebs are everywhere on the SC sidelines with Marcus Allen, Anthony Munoz, Anthony Davis, Sean Salisbury, and Rodney Peete.
2:28 ND veteran stadium public address announcer Mike Collins welcomes the capacity crowd and introduces the Trojans as "the defending national champions."
2:32 Irish come out in green jerseys after warming up in their blues. Crowd goes wild, but this thing has been used too many times. It¹s getting kind of stale. It was good in 1977, but if the Trojans lose to green uniforms, then they deserve to lose.
2:36 The Trojans win the coin toss and defer to the second half and will kickoff. This was the only thing that one can safely say will happen.
2:42 Trojan freshman Troy Van Blarcom kicks off, but not before having to wait for NBC to come back from a commercial and the ball being blown off the tee. Irish freshman David Grimes returns the kickoff only 15 yards. A good sign, especially given the Trojans¹ special team¹s kick coverage rap sheet.
2:45 The Irish opening drive is given a real Trojan jolt when star Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija is "blown up" by Ryan Ting. Irish are forced to punt and when D.J. Fitzpatrick¹s punt hits the long grass, the ball looks like it is hidden as part of an Easter egg hunt.
2:53 After being unable to move the ball the Trojans¹ Tom Malone punts it away. Trojan offensive line coach Pat Ruel is not pleased with his highly touted line and takes some issues up on the Trojan bench.
2:54 Notre Dame attempts a fleaflicker and the pass is intercepted by linebacker Keith Rivers. Rivers is quietly starting to live up to his high school rep as one of the top linebackers in the country. Charlie Weis, however, has a full bag of tricks and the Trojans will likely see many of them before the afternoon is over.
2:56 Tailback Reggie Bush explodes off the left side for a 35-yard score. Now, as we were saying, that long grass that Notre Dame has been growing the past three weeks and is sure to slow down No. 5. Poor ND DB Ambrose Wooden who was ready for a tackle of The Roadrunner and, poof, Reggie leaps over the Irish corner like the guy in the red cape with the letter S. USC 7, ND 0.
2:57 The Irish crowd is stunned as Reggie Bush has taken out the vocal cords of the well-trained student section, which certainly knows when to yell and not yell, depending on the game situation and Matt Leinart¹s movements.
3:02 Charlie Weis elects to go for it on 4th-and-1 at the Irish 29-yard line. Weis forces the Trojans to take a timeout. During the timeout, the PA announcer Collins informs us Ole Miss has lost to No. 6 Alabama 13-10. Tough day for Coach O, but the message is sent that he is headed in the right direction. Out of the time out, the Irish get the first down on a Brady Quinn sneak. This is starting to look like Weis¹ plan of shrinking the clock and scoring along the way.
3:10 Pass interference is called on Trojan DB John Walker. To the shock of nobody with a football brain, Weis is going to "pick" on the Trojan defensive corners deep. It seems you get either a touchdown or a pass interference call. A killer Trojan penalty to keep the ND drive going.
3:12 Trojan senior defensive end Frostee Rucker is called for roughing the passer, giving the Irish a first down. Rucker is taken off the field and it admonished by defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. He may not be Ed Orgeron, but Franklin isn¹t far behind in a warranted explosion on the talented Rucker.
3:13 ND reserve tailback Travis Thomas goes off the right side for a 16-yard score and ND Stadium erupts. Two killer penalties by Walker and Rucker and the Irish are in business. In a massive display of muscle, a vast majority of the ND student section is doing human pushups of classmates. It looks like oil wells pumping disguised as bananas, USC 7, ND 7.
3:15 Trojan running back Desmond Reed is waving his hands in the air to either fire up the Trojan gathering or the Irish gathering, depending where he¹s facing. Moments later, tight end Dominique Byrd goes 56 yards with a Leinart pass and displays all the running and catching skills that Trojan fans have been waiting to see. It could be a long day for the Irish if Byrd does a rendition of last year¹s performances.
3:21 Tailback LenDale White slides three yards into the Irish end zone and suddenly it looks like the Trojans¹ offense is warming up. With 14 points now on the board, it doesn¹t take a math major to figure this could lead into the 50-Club, a real nightmare for Weis if this happens, especially with this weekend being the big recruiting weekend for the Domers. USC 14, Irish 7
3:28 The Trojans blow a golden opportunity when sophomore tight end Fred Davis is called for procedure and it ignites the Irish crowd, who feel they are responsible for the ND good fortune. Better grab the earplugs, Aunt Betty. Moments later, a wide open Steve Smith drops a perfect Leinart pass. Scratch those euphoric ideas about the Trojans exploding in the first half. There is a sudden sick feeling that penalties are starting to add up and missed opportunities.
3:30 The first quarter ends: USC 14, ND 7. The Trojans look they just need one more score to make it sweaty palms and hands for Uncle Charlie. There is a sense that this is the first half opportunity the Trojans and their fans have been waiting for, if they can cut down on the season plague of penalties.
3:39 ND¹s Samardzija gets open again at the SC 33 and they can¹t seem to stop the former Indiana 6-5 prep star, and quarterback Brady Quinn seems poised to dual Matt Leinart the rest of the way.
3:41 As we were saying, Samardzija just turned Trojan senior corner Justin Wyatt around for a 32-yard touchdown. Quinn seems to sense that the Trojan corners are going either get beat deep or be called for pass interference. USC14, ND 14
3:46 Trojans are called for delay of game. Sorry, but the Men of Troy are in deep trouble. Too many penalties, too many missed opportunities, and too many mistakes and Notre Dame Stadium senses the Irish have a real shot if they can take this baby into the second half. Didn¹t we mention Irish ball control?
3:49 Safety and punt returner Tom Zbikowski just pours oil onto the with a 60-yard punt return for a score. Excuse the question, but can somebody tackle this former national prep boxing champion? This may be the critical score that sends this game into a potential upset. ND 21, USC 14.
3:52 Don¹t tell Trojan kick returner Desmond Reed the long grass at Notre Dame Stadium isn¹t lethal. The talented Reed is felled without being hit on the Irish kickoff and looks done for the day. It¹s the knee and doesn¹t this year¹s Trojans know about knee injures? Just ask Kevin Ellison and Terrell Thomas. This may be the year of another national title, but it¹s also the year of the ACL. Bad scene.
4:06 The Irish have all the momentum until Trojan linebacker Keith Rivers delivers a vicious hit on Brady Quinn. Ah, the blitz and down goes the Dublin, Ohio, signal-caller. A loss of 10 and the Trojans are trying desperately to turn the "Mo" around.
4:13 A monster hit by Trojan safety Ryan Ting on talented Irish tight end Anthony Fasano. No, make that a highlight hit for Monday¹s team film session. Close your eyes and Ting was Jack Tatum, the Raiders All-Pro Hall of Fame safety. More and more, Ting is making kill shots as he gains experience.
4:13 Another pass interference call on the Trojans¹ corner John Walker. Well, there is also another flag on the Trojans, but we can¹t make it out because the ref¹s call is inaudible. Wow, just like the Coliseum.
4:28 Great hit on Irish running back Travis Thomas by Trojan defensive end Lawrence Jackson for a loss. During a time out, Irish fans yell, "Off the field." The chant seems to be growing in repetition whenever Carroll comes out to talk with his guys. Play resumes and Trojan safety Scott Ware de-helmets running back Thomas who must be getting nightmares of the Trojans¹ physical play. In fact, Ware¹s hit of Thomas almost knocks the kid to Indianapolis. An Irish fan comments that the Trojans hit like the NFL, especially safeties Ware and Darnell Bing.
4:35 End of half. ND 21, USC 14
4:37 The Trojan Marching Band comes on for a sterling halftime show. Unlike the team, the band commits no penalties and the trumpets and tubas are on top of their game. The first half stats have come out and the Trojans have been flagged six times for 71 yards. Heck, they have already surpassed their seasonal average of 70.2. At this rate, the 100-Club is right around the corner, ur, second half.
4:55 Trojans receive the opening kickoff with Justin Wyatt now replacing the injured Desmond Reed. You know that vaunted Trojan opening drive to start the second half? It ain¹t happening and the Trojans punt.
5:10 Nose tackle Sedrick Ellis makes a huge play sacking Quinn for a loss of five. It really is starting to look like "Reggie" time. No. 5, where are you?
5:11 Bush returns punt 21-yards to mid-field and the Trojans now have their best field position of the second half.
5:15 Hello Heisman!!! Reggie explodes off left side for 45-yard run and please don¹t slow up near the end zone, Reggie. Please. Bush gets a late push in the back by an Irish defender but no call by the Pac-10 crew. There is no replay board at ND Stadium, so maybe Reggie couldn't see from the back of his helmet. At least I am told he doesn¹t have eyes in the back of his head. USC 21, ND 21.
5:25 The Irish are driving when Irish tight end Anthony Fasano is stripped of the ball after a great catch by Darnell Bing and Keith Rivers recovers. What an important turn of events. You can bet the Darnell Bing Fan Club is going wild in Long Beach.
5:36 Third quarter end with USC 21, ND 21.
5:37 - Now for the big ND fourth quarter tradition of officer Tim McCarthy of the Indiana State Police, who entertains the crowd with some legendary humor about some serious automobile safety. McCarthy tells the 80,795 in attendance "Too many empty bottles can make a case in court."
5:40 The Irish are driving and are held to a 32-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick. Could a field goal be the difference? The Trojans can¹t seem to get the ball as the Irish are dominating the time of possession. Charlie Weis¹ plan is working to near perfection. Use the clock, score some points, and let the crowd take over. ND 24, USC 21
6:00 In the longest game in memory and even longer sitting in the uncomfortable Notre Dame Stadium wooden seats, it must seem like this game is turning into an NBC mini-series and the tension is ten cents a ton. Trojan reserve defensive end Jeff Schweiger makes a key stop of Thomas for no gain.
6:03 A major event as placekicker Fitzpatrick misses on a 35-yard attempt. A break for the Trojans. A very big break. No make that a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry big break.
6:12 A major Irish blunder as Notre Dame defensive tackle Derek Landri, the former Concord De La Salle High star, commits one of the few Irish penalties with a personal foul and automatic Trojan first down.
6:13 Reggie Bush scores his third touchdown on a 9-yard run off the left side. As the old commercial used to say, "Thanks, I needed that." There is something about that left side of tackle Sam Baker and guard Deuce Lutui that seems to bring out the best in Bush. USC 28, ND 24
6:15 During the TV timeout, the entire SC team huddles around Pete Carroll. There is 5:09 on the game clock and this could be one of the all-time classic endings to an all-time classic rivalry. It¹s USC and Notre Dame and the country has to be loving it.
6:24 Are you kidding me? The very soul of Pete Carroll¹s national titles has been defense, but the Irish march 83 yards and fake out the entire Trojan defense with a 5-yard quarterback draw for a Brady Quinn touchdown with just over 2 minutes remaining. ND 31, USC 28
6:25 Notre Dame Stadium is in a frenzy. No, Notre Dame Stadium is delirious. No, Notre Dame Stadium is insane. No, Notre Dame Stadium has gone irrational. This is it for the USC Trojans. If ever the greatest offense since D-Day needs to come through, this may be the defining moment for the legacy of the 2005 defending national champions. At least up to this point.
6:26 After a Bush kickoff return, the Trojans begin on their own 25.
6:27 - The air starts to go out of the Trojan balloon with a sack of Leinart by Irish captain Trevor Laws. The clock is moving and the Trojans are in more trouble than there are words to describe.
6:31 Down to their final down on their own 26-yard line with fourth and 9 to go, the Trojans call a timeout. What to call? Some are saying call Norm Chow. Some are saying call Touchdown Jesus and repent. Some are just saying call it "over" and spare us the pain.
6:31 Wholly Indiana fertilizer, Leinart throws a fade that to Dwayne Jarrett that somehow, someway, some are-you-kidding-me catches the ball despite great coverage by Mike Richardson and races to down the sidelines. Run Dwayne. Go. Go. Go. Jarrett goes 61 yards to the Notre Dame 13-yard line. Are we about to see a miracle? Trojan fans are looking for penalty flags. No flags. We repeat, no flags.
6:32 Reggie Bush dents the Irish defense twice for 11 yards down to the ND 2-yard line and a first down. Tatoo would yell "Da plane, da plane." Trojan fans are yelling "The clock, the clock." Now it¹s fate and a clock operator and there is no replay thanks to Pete Carroll¹s fateful decision. The stadium is near bedlam.
6:34 This is it. Leinart rolls left, a teammate looks open, no he going to run, where¹s the game clock? No. 11 launches himself to the end zone, but suddenly he is hit sideways. Where¹s the ball? Where is the freakin ball? The clock says, "Game Over." Here comes the student body. Make way for Rudy, the Four Horseman, the legend of the green jerseys. Not so fast, my friends, those Pac-10 officials have ruled the ball went out of bounds and the clock must be reset to seven seconds. The Trojans have it at the Irish one and Charlie Weis can feel destiny closing in and it¹s not wearing green and gold.
6:35 PA announcer Collins is screaming at the students to get off the field. Can you say Stanford/Cal? Can you say this is incredible? And this thing ain¹t over. In the words of little Reagan in the Exorcist, "Mother, make it stop!" This could be one of the great finishes ever, if the Trojans win.
6:35 This is really it. Leinart is either going to give it to Bush, take it himself, or spike it and we go into a cruel overtime. There¹s the snap, he didn¹t make it!!!!!! Wait Leinart is twisting, turning, stretching, but hey, isn¹t that Reggie pushing him? This is like watching the Zupruder film in slow motion. Leinart leans like a pretzel. Lean, baby, lean. Did he score? Did he score?? Did he score??? Trojan players are running onto the field. Notre Dame Stadium is hearing the standing eight-count. What is it??? LEINART SCORES!!!!! Where¹s Al Michaels???? Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in Matt Leinart???? Trojans are flagged for unnecessary celebration, but who cares? Kicker Mario Danelo cares and is forced to try a long PAT and misses.
6:39 Now we have three-seconds left and it is up to freshman kicker Troy Van Blarcom who has been on a hot streak of end zone kicks. He shoots a cue shot down the middle and Tom Zbikowski, the killer TD punt returner from earlier, picks up the ball and tries to lateral to Maurice Crum. Stopped. That¹s it. It¹s over. Where¹s Harry Caray? Trojans Win!!! Trojans Win!!! Trojans Win!!! Where Al Davis? Just win, baby, just win!!! Final Score- USC 34, Notre Dame 31.
6:42 Trojan band plays Conquest and Irish fans yell "Overrated."
6:43 ND team leaves field to applause with players crying and helmets held high.
6:47 Reggie Bush gets hug from Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz.
6:49 ND band plays Fight On out of respect. Irish fans boo and yell "Overrated."
6:51 Most of the fans are still in Notre Dame Stadium. As the late Jack Buck would say, "I can¹t believe what I just saw."
7:15 Fans are taking pictures of themselves with Reggie Bush¹s family.
8:30 After a long journey to get out of the St. Mary¹s parking lot, we meet WeAreSC photographer Joe Andras and his buddy Burke at a neat restaurant called Tippecanoe Place, once home to the Studebaker family. As we eat, Joe shows us his fascinating sideline photos of Leinart¹s one-yard touchdown run. With his camera clicking away, you see what a struggle it was for No. 11 to contort himself into the end zone. Yes, Matt really did score and some of the Irish fans at the restaurant came over earlier to see Joe¹s historical sports evidence.
10:00 We depart South Bend for the trip back to Chicago expecting no traffic. Wrong, LA breath. There is traffic and more traffic. This looks like a 1 a.m. arrival.
SUNDAY October 16
1:00 a.m. We finally arrive back to the Chicago Sheraton. We have a 6 a.m. wakeup call, so we decide to watch a replay of College GameDay. What¹s another hour? They show highlights of the game and Lou Holtz makes an idiot out of himself praising the Irish. Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, and Chris Fowler are almost at a loss for words on what they saw just hours earlier.
6:00 Get the dreaded wakeup call and make our way to O'hare by 7 o¹clock.
7:30 As we stand in line for security for our return flight, a man asks us if we were at the "Southern Cal" game? He says, "It was the greatest game I¹ve ever seen." Of course, he could have said it was "Obvious," but the reality was the classic played in South Bend on Oct. 15 had an ending that was in the end, Not So Obvious.
11:10 PDT Arrive back in Orange County. What a weekend!!!