Move Those Chains - Notre Dame review

This game was why football was invented. Two teams with tons of history, playing for everything, shedding blood, sweat and tears and waiting until the final play to decide the outcome.

It was supposed to be the game of the week, the season, the year, and maybe the century. They said that this USC-Notre Dame game would go down as the best in the 77-year history of the rivalry. There was more hype about this game than any regular season game in years. And yet, when the clock hit triple digits in the fourth quarter, for the second time in the game, all of the buildup wasn't enough. This game was why football was invented. Two teams with tons of history, playing for everything, shedding blood, sweat and tears and waiting until the final play to decide the outcome.

Maybe next year we'll play with spikes on the ball in order to limit Trojan receivers' catching ability: I don't know if the decision to keep the field grass the length of an Amazonian rainforest was Charlie Weis' or not, but it will go down as the most irresponsible, stupid and downright mean-spirited attempt to neutralize the Trojans' speed advantage. Desmond Reed suffered what is likely a season and possibly career-ending knee injury after tripping over the aforementioned jungle while retreating on a kickoff return. Several Irish players also went down during the game with apparent knee injuries, and never was it more apparent than when a Trojan defender tossed a divot the size of California off the field after being ripped out during a play. The divot, of course, was replaced due to the danger that the gaping hole presented to the players. I hope the Irish grounds crew slept well Saturday night. They should be pleased with themselves.

I guess rabbits' feet and horseshoes hanging from belt loops just weigh too much: Whether or not the Irish would bring out their fabled green jerseys for this game was like wondering whether or not they would wear pants. Still though, it was pretty cool to see them come out of the tunnel in those tops.

"Ohana means family; family means nobody gets left behind": Sure, I'd still rather watch a game with a room or stadium full of Trojan fans, but my first experience in South Bend with the Notre Dame fans is one I'll never forget. Of course I'd heard all about how this was the "caviar" rivalry and there was such respect given to both opponents, but nothing prepared me for how great the Notre Dame fans and the school itself actually are. For example, after four years of trite Trojan t-shirts, it was refreshing to see gems such as, "We Is ND" and "Charlie's Angels" in the student section rather than "Fucla" or "(Insert team name here) Sucks." Also, I don't know when or why the USC band stopped doing this, but the Irish marching band playing the opposing team's fight song is one of the classier events in college football. I even spent my pre-game warm-up at a Notre Dame tailgate and, despite my flagrant cardinal and gold camouflage, would have needed four hands for the amount of food shoved my way. Everyone there, from the fans to the ticket takers to the ushers to "Touchdown Jesus" couldn't have made my visit any better.

There are Hits and there are hits and then there are HITS: When Irish tight end Anthony Fasano heard the play call, I'm not sure if he imagined what was waiting for him in the Trojan secondary. When he streaked down the middle of the field and the ball floated his way, he may or may not have heard the footsteps. But what I am certain of, is that he felt the hit put on him by Trojan safety Scott Ware. It was one of the most brutal hits I've seen and, although Fasano popped up rather quickly, he wasn't the same player after that collision.

"This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls": Fortunately, in this game, the hearts and souls of Trojan fans would never be casualties. Although, the same cannot be said for my voice, which unfortunately, is still MIA.

Chris Fowler, you can stop the voting, I've got your Pontiac Game Changing Performance right here, wrapped up with a pretty bow: The pass from Matt Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett on 4th and nine with just over a minute to go and a game, a season and a rivalry on the line should go right up there with Anthony Davis' kickoff return in the annals of Trojan lore. From the angle I had watching the game, it looked as if Jarrett had a full step or two on the defender and Leinart's throw simply led him into the open space. After watching the replay, however, I realize that Leinart actually turned the ball invisible and threw it through the defender. If you've got a better explanation, I'd like to hear it. If that cornerback moves his arm a different way when he runs, or takes one step to the inside, or turns his head quicker, the ball is knocked down and I'm surrounded in tissues and bon-bons right now. It was an absolutely perfect throw, catch and result and done under the toughest circumstances you can create.

It's almost enough to make you wish for Linda Blair's possessed head: Darnell Bing made one of the "headier" plays during the game when he punched the ball out of Anthony Fasano's hands while the tight end was on his way to the goal line. From the moment Fasano got the ball in the open field and Bing gave chase, the Trojan safety's thoughts were obvious. That strip is something that we've seen a lot from this Trojan team in the past few years, but has been lacking from this team. The turnovers are still there via interception, as the Trojans have picked off at least one pass in each game, but Trojan fans have been waiting for the forced fumbles. That play by Darnell Bing shows how much he's learned during his time here, what a contributor he is to this defense, and how much pride he takes in hustling after the play.

Kind of like how Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey's circus is "the greatest show on earth" as long as you like creepy clowns and freaky animals: Much was made this year about how the Trojans possessed possibly the greatest offense of all time. Well, it's been clear for a few weeks now that this is not the case. The greatest offense of all time has to be an offense that relies on a gimmick, such as Nebraska's option attack or Texas Tech's 12 wide receivers. But what I do believe, and have said since the beginning, is that the Trojans possess the most clutch offense of all time. Before Saturday's game, my aunt asked me what I meant and I told her that I believe that if the Trojans were forced into a situation where they had the ball with 1:30 left in the game, on their own ten-yard line and down by five points, they would always find a way to score. Little did I know how soon my theory would be tested as the Trojans found themselves in almost the exact same predicament during the game. The problem for Notre Dame? They gave the Trojans 30 extra seconds.

Maybe the Yankees should have taken Bob Shepherd with them to Anaheim: Living in Chicago and having not been to a Trojan home game this season, it was great to hear the Coliseum PA announcer in Notre Dame Stadium introduce the Spirit of Troy and "College football's greatest battle cry, Conquest." He made the Notre Dame announcer sound like the Moviefone guy. "Hello, and welcome to…Notre Dame Stadium. If you'd like the Irish to win… press one…"

About as funny as Timmy taking Old Yeller out back: The horrible officiating to start the Trojans' games continued against Notre Dame. What at first was laughable is now downright ridiculous. On the Trojans' first punt, the referees missed an obviously blatant block in the back on the first Trojan downfield. On Tom Zbikowski's punt return, the first two Trojans' downfield were also blocked in the back, neither of which drew a flag. On John Walker's first pass interference call, Irish receiver Maurice Stovall ran out of bounds, then was the first player to touch the ball, making him both an ineligible receiver and guilty of illegally touching the ball. Of course, 15 yards were marched off against the Trojans. The referees also did a horrendous job of uncovering the pile after an Irish fumble, which would have resulted in a 4th and 19 inside their own 10 yard line. The referees took their time uncovering the pile and refused to break up the individual spats going on around the play, each of which could have resulted in offsetting personal fouls. The ultimate result of the play? A fifteen yard personal foul against Josh Pinkard, called about five minutes after the end of the play. I know it seems whiney to harp on these things, and I normally hate doing so, but this trend of officials contributing heavily to the Trojans' first half woes is something that can't continue and hasn't been addressed by any of the national media. These guys would make Angels' fans thankful that they drew Doug Eddings.

Case in point: Not excessive celebration: Notre Dame's entire student body and football team running onto the field during the game. Excessive celebration: USC's football team running onto the field during the game. Not a personal foul: Arizona safety Darrell Brooks spearing Reggie Bush's knee. Personal foul: A late hit by LaJuan Ramsey when Wildcat quarterback Richard Kovalcheck's toe hit the sideline and his other foot had yet to come down. Then again: Excessive celebration: USC fans. Not excessive celebration: Notre Dame fans.

Let's take a break of this column to bring you a commercial timeout: Now let's take a break from this commercial timeout to bring you another commercial timeout. Has there ever been a game with more stoppages in it than the game on Saturday? I know that Notre Dame likes to bring out all of their National Championship teams, but let's draw a line at the No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em team.

Who says good jobs are hard to find?: Apparently the clock guy at Heinz field, who inexplicably took 52 seconds off the clock during the Steelers game against the Patriots a few weeks ago found another job working the clock at Notre Dame stadium. Apparently he was a victim of premature celebration as he was no longer at his post when Matt Leinart's fumble went out of bounds and the clock needed to be stopped. It was that much more satisfying to have the Notre Dame student section watch their team lose from the sideline after being pushed off the field.

The only thing that makes an inside-the-park homerun seem like a three-hour botany lecture: Reggie Bush. Whether it's a 30-yard touchdown run or a 2-yard loss on a punt return, Reggie Bush is the most exciting athlete in sports. He didn't just put himself at the top of the Heisman Trophy watch list with his performance, he won it. I would never be critical of his performance, but Reggie, get in the end zone, then celebrate.

Now maybe one day I'll stay on a hotel's 13th floor: Thanks to Saturday, a scoreboard showing a final score of 34-31 no longer gives me the shakes of a three-week recovering addict.

Maybe Tyrone Willingham was given two years too many: There are a lot of negative feelings toward Charlie Weis around Trojan land, but make no mistake, he is one of the best coaches in college football. I thought the Irish faithful were overdosing on their crazy pills when they made the same declaration after their first five games, but after watching Weis use Willingham's players to push the Trojans to the edge like that, I'm convinced they are right. Weis instilled such confidence in his team that they were able to go toe-to-toe with the Trojans with just their regular offense. He is a great coach in every sense of the word, and this rivalry is going to be one of the great games of the season for as long as he and Pete Carroll are lining up on opposite sides of the field.

Close, but not quite: To those Notre Dame fans chanting "O-ver-rate-ed" as the Trojans were walking off the field: keep the cadence, change a few of the syllables. In fact, try "Un-de-feat-ed."

Instant history: Was this college football's greatest game of all time? In short, no. But it will definitely go down as one of the greatest games in the USC-Notre Dame rivalry and every second of it, from the Irish green jerseys streaming out of the tunnel, to Reggie Bush breaking away from the Notre Dame defense, to Fitzpatrick's field goal sailing wide right, to the three consecutive should-be-game-winning drives, to Leinart's sneak, will be etched in my mind indefinitely and as far as I'm concerned, could be the greatest game I'll ever see.


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