Notre Dame-USC: Keys to the Game

Weis GipperCorrespondent INovember 25, 2008

David vs. Goliath, Rocky vs. everyone he faced in all of his six or seven movies, and now this weekend; Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal.

At 6-5, the Fighting Irish are searching for some divine intervention against the 30-point favorites.

Notre Dame, last Saturday, let another win slip through their fingers as they lost to their first eight-loss team in history against Syracuse 24-23. The Orange only scored two, fourth-quarter touchdowns all season long. But against the Irish, they strung together two scoring drives, including the game winner with less than a minute to play.

Southern Cal has been basically on cruise control after their early-season hiccup at Oregon State. The Trojans have been outscoring their opponents to a tune of 39-6. That doesn't bode well for the Irish, especially a struggling Irish squad that has dropped four of their last six contests.

1.) Brush up on their history. There have been instant classics between the Irish and Trojans, and this team has lost sight of how important this series really was and still is for both schools. Below are some great Irish moments:

Oct. 16, 1999
Notre Dame 25, USC 24
Notre Dame Stadium
Twenty-five years after USC staged "The Comeback," Notre Dame got a little revenge of its own on its West Coast rivals with the biggest comeback in Notre Dame Stadium history. Trailing 24-3 in the third quarter, the luck of the Irish helped ND secure the win. No more was that evident than the game-winning score when tight end Jabari Holloway won the scrum for Jarious Jackson's fumble in the end zone with 2:40 remaining.
Nov. 29, 1988
No. 1 Notre Dame 27, No. 2 USC 10
The Coliseum
In the only No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting in the series, Lou Holtz elected to leave two of his top players at home, tailback Tony Brooks and flanker Ricky Watters. The Irish responded with a win that propelled them to their first national title in 11 years. Tony Rice hit Raghib Ismail with a 55-yard TD strike to start the game. Rice then called his own number on an option play down the left sideline and sprinted 65 yards for the score. Stan Smagala's 64-yard interception return for a touchdown of a Rodney Peete pass put the game out of reach as Notre Dame took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Nov. 29, 1986
Notre Dame 38, No. 17 USC 37
The Coliseum
Lou Holtz's first foray into the Notre Dame-USC rivalry was a successful one, as the Irish rallied back from a 20-9 halftime deficit. They trailed 30-12 early in the third quarter before Steve Beuerlein started hitting his stride. He hit Braxston Banks with a 22-yard TD pass, Milt Jackson for 43 yards and Banks for five yards to cut it to 37-35. Tim Brown's 56-yard punt return then put John Carney in position to cap the comeback with a 19-yard field goal with two seconds left.
October 22, 1977
No. 11 Notre Dame 49, No. 5 USC 19
Notre Dame Stadium
"The Switch."

The Irish warmed up in their traditional blue jerseys. But before the start of the game, Devine handed out the school's treasured green jerseys for the first time in 14 years. Led by Joe Montana, who threw two TD passes and ran for two more, the Irish proceeded to rout the Trojans 49-19.
October 27, 1973
No. 8 Notre Dame 23, No. 6 USC 14
Notre Dame Stadium
Anthony Davis' six-touchdown afternoon in 1972 was in the minds of many Irish when they met again in 1973. On a rainy day in South Bend, the Irish held Davis to just 55 yards on 19 carries. It was Notre Dame's Eric Perrick who had the big day, as Perrick's 85-yard TD run early in the third quarter keyed the Irish's 23-14 upset of the Trojans, who entered the game on a 23-game unbeaten streak.
Dec. 6, 1947
No. 1 Notre Dame 38, No. 3 USC
The Coliseum
In a game that would decide the national championship, the battle lasted for one half with the Irish holding a slim 10-7 lead. Emil Sitko broke the game opened with a 76 yard TD run to open the second half. Bob Livingstone followed with a 92 yard score. John Panelli added a touchdown, and it was all over for USC.

2.) Go no huddle, two minute offense. What's there to lose, right? The most consistent the Irish have looked all season long is when Notre Dame decides to speed up the game going no huddle in shotgun formation. I'm not sure if Clausen just excels in those situations or not, but he does look more confident and comfortable in that scenario.

Having an injured Michael Floyd hurts in this situation, as the Trojans' No. 1 pass defense will smother Golden Tate. This is where David Grimes, Robby Parris, and most importantly, Duval Kamara have to step up and make plays. Kamara has regressed this season and could jump back in a major way with a big game.

3.) Rely on your corners. Notre Dame's defense did not show up last week when they were counted on the most. Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta will have to pull out everything they've got against the Trojans, with plenty of pressure and blitzes. So that means the Irish corners will be left alone on an island to defend themselves.

If the ND pressure does get to Mark Sanchez in a timely fashion, players like Robert Blanton, Raeshon McNeil, Gary Gray, and Terrail Lambert will have only minimal time to lock down on the USC receivers.

Yes, that's a tall order to ask, but Notre Dame's defense has played well against the pass statistical-wise. The Irish are 22nd in the nation, yielding only 176 yards and 10 touchdowns.

4.) Maximize the clock with long sustained drives. If the Irish have any chance of making this a game, they will have to string together double-digit drives that eats a lot of the clock. Stanford did a fairly good job of that in the first half of their contest with Southern Cal, but collapsed towards the end of the contest.

Look for a bevy of screen passes to Armando Allen and some short hitch and slant routes to Grimes, Tate, and Kamara. Don't expect Clausen and the Irish to throw anything over 25 yards.

5.) Play with heart for the Blue & Gold. Last week there was no emotion whatsoever. It was Senior Day, students were pelting them with snowballs, and still nothing. They need to go out there on Saturday night and show to everyone, including themselves that they have some pride left in them and won't back down against the mighty Trojans.

Maybe Chuck can use these words of wisdom for his team:

Well, boys ... I haven't a thing to say.
Played a better season than last...all of you. Better season.

I guess we just can't expect to win ‘em all.

I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years -
None of you ever witnessed a National Championship Team.
It was long before your time.
But you know what a tradition they are at Notre Dame...

And the last thing they said to me -- "Weisgipper," they said -
"sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the
breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there
with all they got and win just one for the Lady on the Dome...

I don't know where I'll be then, Weisgipper", he said -"but
I'll know about it - and I'll be happy."


    Ultimate Guide to Early National Signing Day

    Notre Dame Football logo
    Notre Dame Football

    Ultimate Guide to Early National Signing Day

    David Kenyon
    via Bleacher Report

    The Best Bowl Games Left 💪

    Notre Dame Football logo
    Notre Dame Football

    The Best Bowl Games Left 💪

    Kerry Miller
    via Bleacher Report

    Irish Say They Can Run on Clemson

    Notre Dame Football logo
    Notre Dame Football

    Irish Say They Can Run on Clemson

    via The Clemson Insider

    Report: Fields Exploring Transfer from UGA

    College Football logo
    College Football

    Report: Fields Exploring Transfer from UGA

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report