In the spirit of rivalry, the Irish came into the Coliseum fighting. Unfortunately for the Domers, pre-game skirmishes aren’t recorded and don’t appear on stat sheets. Though Notre Dame appeared pumped and fearless in an early scuffle that led to the two teams being separated before the game ever kicked off, they had no punches to throw on the negative side of a 38-3 Trojans rout.
From the first series of the game, and carrying to the end, Charlie Weis proved there’s no “genius” in his coaching or offense. For four quarters the Trojan domination made the visitors appear no better than the two Pac 10 programs playing in the state of Washington. The Irish may have come in at 6-5, playing the 107th ranked strength of schedule in the country, but Pete Carroll gave them a better measure of their so called improvement from last season, by revealing that nothing has changed. Clear the smoke from their schedule and you see Notre Dame outscored in the last two meeting 76-3 by their biggest rival. That isn’t South Bend progression. That’s a program idle in futility.
To put their misery in perspective, the Irish failed to achieve a single first down in the first 30 minutes of play, and 45 minutes passed before they established one. Their offense totaled just 9 first half yards, 11 passing and -2 rushing. They finished the game with 91 total yards, 4 first downs, and 3 points on the scoreboard. The field goal appeared as an act of desperation, with Weis refusing to be shutout by USC in consecutive years, and for the 4th time versus Irish opponents in the past two seasons.
It was a homecoming for Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who lost his first game in the state of California, after going 46-0 at Oaks Christian High School. The former Parade All-American went just 11 of 22 for 41 yards and 2 interceptions. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Mark Sanchez, also a former high school All-American, connected 21 times on 32 attempts for 267 yards and two scores. Sanchez threw an interception on the Trojans’ first series of the game, and another in the end zone in the second half, on a first and goal play that would have increased the swelling of the Irish’s black eye.
USC rushed for 175 yards, including a 55 yard first half burst for a touchdown by Joe Mcknight. 8 different Trojans caught passes in the blowout, with Damian Williams’ 8 receptions for 76 yards and a score leading the way. Carroll cleared his bench in the fourth quarter, and the determined Weis left his starters on the field for further embarrassment. Be it starters or reserves, the Irish hit a Trojan wall of defense, and have now gone 8 consecutive quarters without a touchdown against Southern Cal. The victory is the 7th straight for USC in the series.
With Oregon defeating Oregon State in Corvallis, The Trojans now lead the Pac 10 and can earn a Rose Bowl birth and automatic BCS bowl bid with a victory over UCLA in next week’s season finale.