With the Notre Dame-USC showdown just days away, it is always fun to reflect back on some of the classic showdowns in this rivalry. The one that stands out to me at this point, is 2005 battle that later became known as the Bush Push. That was the last time the game was close. Irish and Trojan fans still talk about it, and remember it for different reasons.
For me, it will always go down as the game that changed my opinion of Brady Quinn, forever. After his first couple of seasons, I really wasn't very impressed with him at all. Although he had gotten off to solid start for the season, I was positive Matt Leinart would show him what a real quarterback looks like.
There was no way he would get it done against the Trojans. USC was the defending national champion, and they were riding a 24 game winning streak. The Irish were an upstart program with new coach, Charlie Weis. Although the Irish were ranked No. 9, I was positive that Quinn, Darius Walker, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Zbikowski, and company would come back to earth.
The Irish had been blown out the three previous years. Then when Quinn threw an early interception, and Reggie Bush scored soon after that, I was thinking, here we go again.
Then the strangest thing happened. Travis Thomas got a 16 yard touchdown run. Leinart quickly answered with a touchdown pass to Dwayne Jarrett. Quinn answered back with a 72 yard drive ending in a touchdown pass to Samardzija. Then, Zbikowski returned a punt for a touchdown. The Irish take a 21-14 lead into halftime.
Although I was excited, I still thought USC would assert their dominance in the second half. Then Notre Dame failed to capitalize on a couple of opportunities. They failed to score after a Leinart interception, and Anthony Fasano fumbled a long pass deep in Trojan territory. The only score in the third was another long touchdown by Bush.
Early in the fourth, DJ FitzPatrick gave the Irish the lead with a 32 yard field goal, but missed a 34 yarder that would have extended the lead. Then Bush completed an 80 yard drive, led by Leinart, for another touchdown. Then, I was thinking that Quinn had a good game, but there was no way he would be able to lead them in this situation.
Not only did he lead them, but he really looked like a general out there. He completed his four passes, and scored on a five yard touchdown with less than two minutes to go.
Unfortunately, that was too much. Leinart hit a 61 yard pass to Jarrett. Bush had a couple of runs that set up the most controversial touchdown in recent memory of this rivalry. That, of course, was the one yard touchdown run by Leinart, in which Bush assisted him into the end zone. Although it was illegal, nobody can fault Bush for it, as any Irish player would do the same thing.
Although he didn't lead his team to victory, Quinn really earned my respect that day with how he performed in a big game. Although he is currently in a bad situation with the Cleveland Browns, I am confident he will get a real chance in the NFL.
Leinart is still waiting to take over for Kurt Warner someday in Arizona. Bush and Jarrett have had ups and downs with the Saints and Panthers. The same can be said for Lendale White in Tennessee. Zbikowski is a Special Teams player with the Baltimore Ravens. Finally, Samardjiza is now a Pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.
Regardless of how their professional careers turn out, the Bush Push will always be a game they can tell their grandchildren about.
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