The USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish got into a scuffle coming out of the tunnel for pregame warmups, and the pushing and shoving that ensued proved to be the only fight Notre Dame had in them Saturday night, losing 38-3.
“It really comes down to it being the heat of the rivalry. Those guys came across the country and didn’t want to be disrespected and neither did we,” Brian Cushing said. “I don’t know how it started, but neither team backed off.”
Once the real hitting began, there was no question which team was more physical.
USC’s defense, which has been led by a core group of seniors, put on one last display of dominance in front of their home audience.
“They are one of the top defenses in the country, if not the best,” Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen said after the 38-3 loss. “They have one of the fastest pass rushes we have faced.”
Clausen and the Irish offense mustered just 9 yards of total offense, while being held to minus six rushing yards, and zero first downs in the first half.
“They didn’t have very many yards, and didn’t get very many first downs,” Pete Carroll said. “It just seemed like series after series nothing happened on their end of it.”
It took the Irish until the final play of the third quarter to gain a first down, which drew a sarcastic cheer from the 90,689 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Notre Dame’s 91 total yards of offense were the fewest allowed by USC this season.
“I don’t think that offensively they thought they were really going anywhere,” Cushing said. “It’s the Coliseum. We are pretty good here and I think they understood that too.”
Making their last start at home, the seniors came up big for USC’s defense once again.
Cary Harris and Kaluka Maiava each intercepted Jimmy Clausen, while Kyle Moore, Clay Matthews and Fili Moala all recorded quarterback sacks.
“What a terrific night for our seniors,” Carroll said. “They’ve given so much to this program, and I’m glad they’ve been able to receive so much as well.”
While Notre Dame’s offense had to struggle for every inch, the Trojans’ speed proved to be too much for Notre Dame to contain, putting up 38 points.
Mark Sanchez was a perfect 6-for-6 on the Trojans first scoring drive, which was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Stafon Johnson.
Sanchez passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
Joe McKnight’s 55-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the highlight of the night for USC Head Coach Pete Carroll.
“I think my favorite moment of the night was Joe running,” Carroll said. “That was an awesome highlight. He was weaving over here and cutting over there.”
Damian Williams added a 12-yard touchdown reception, David Buehler connected on a 35-yard field goal, and it was fitting that Patrick Turner, another senior leader, scored the last touchdown of the game.
In total, the Trojans amassed 449 yards of total offense en route to their seventh straight win over the Fighting Irish.
“USC is the team that you have to look at when you look at playing for championships,” Charlie Weis said. “You see the discrepancy between them and us is wide.”
With the win, the Trojans improved to 10-1 on the season and a perfect 6-0 at home. In their six home games, USC has outscored the opposition 218-19.
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