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A Nasty Case of the South Bends

Trojans have won at Notre Dame only once since 1981 but hope to rectify that today

October 18, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — USC has achieved several program-defining successes in Pete Carroll's two-plus seasons as coach.

Last year, the Trojans won a share of the Pacific 10 Conference title, continued their recent domination of UCLA, played in a bowl championship series game for the first time and produced a Heisman Trophy-winning quar- terback.

USC also routed Notre Dame at the Coliseum, ending the Trojans' three-game losing streak against their longtime rival.

But as much as that stunning 44-13 victory meant to USC -- and to Carson Palmer's winning the Heisman -- today's game between the fifth-ranked Trojans and the Fighting Irish could mean even more.

USC has not defeated Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium since 1997 and has won here only once since 1981.

A Trojan victory in the 75th matchup would interrupt Notre Dame's dominance at home and also keep the Trojans on track for a possible shot at their first national title since 1978.

"This is something we need to do," freshman running back LenDale White said. "It's time to start a new tradition in this rivalry."

USC (5-1) faces a rejuvenated Notre Dame team that ended a three-game losing streak with a 20-14 upset of then-15th-ranked Pittsburgh last week. The Fighting Irish (2-3) beat Washington State in overtime in their opener before losing to Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.

Senior running back Julius Jones, who rushed for a school-record 262 yards against Pitt, said Notre Dame was playing for pride the rest of the season.

"Getting this one would make us even," Jones said.

Jones, who did not attend Notre Dame last year because of academic problems, was talking about Notre Dame's won-lost record this season.

But for the rest of Notre Dame's players, and coaches, today's game is a chance to avenge last year's embarrassing defeat in the regular-season finale.

Palmer torched the Notre Dame secondary for 425 yards passing and four touchdowns as the Trojans rolled up 610 total yards, the most ever surrendered by the Fighting Irish.

Earlier this week, second-year Notre Dame Coach Tyrone Willingham said he had no hard feelings about the aggressive way USC finished the game.

"I've always said that I don't coach the opponent. I coach our team," Willingham said. "What they do is their prerogative and what we do is ours."

Still, Carroll anticipates that Notre Dame coaches and players will focus on getting even.

"It's only natural," Carroll said. "That can fuel big emotions and all of that. I'm sure they're doing what they can with that to help them."

Carroll expects a few surprises from the Fighting Irish, who made drastic changes in their offensive approach the last two games.

On Sept. 27 against Purdue, freshman Brady Quinn replaced Carlyle Holiday as the starting quarterback, then passed 59 times, throwing for 297 yards and a touchdown. He also threw four interceptions and the Fighting Irish lost, 23-10.

After a bye, Notre Dame made adjustments in its offensive line and handed the ball to its tailbacks 51 times against Pitt.

Jones carried 24 times and eclipsed Vegas Ferguson's record of 255 yards. Junior Ryan Grant ran 27 times for 84 yards. Quinn passed only 17 times, completing five.

"It will be interesting to see if they think they need to mix it, or are they going to go after the running game and try to knock us off" the line of scrimmage, Carroll said.

USC players said it did not matter what scheme the Fighting Irish employed on offense or defense. They also discounted the history and aura surrounding Notre Dame's program.

"The only thing we're thinking about is doing what we're supposed to do," senior flanker Keary Colbert said, "because we've got to get this game this time."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

House of Horrors

A look at USC's last 10 trips to

Notre Dame Stadium:

2001

Notre Dame...27

USC...16

1999

Notre Dame...25

USC...24

1997

USC...20

Notre Dame...17

1995

Notre Dame...38

USC...10

1993

Notre Dame...31

USC...13

1991

Notre Dame...24

USC...20

1989

Notre Dame...28

USC...24

1987

Notre Dame...26

USC...15

1985

Notre Dame...37

USC...3

1983

Notre Dame...27

USC...6

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