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Tough place to stay No. 1

Notre Dame has visited the Coliseum as the top team in the nation five times. The Trojans won two of those encounters.

November 22, 2012|By Gary Klein
  • Coach John McKay is carried off the field after the Trojans rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat top-ranked Notre Dame, 20-17, in 1964.
Coach John McKay is carried off the field after the Trojans rallied from… (Los Angeles Times )

Top-ranked Notre Dame comes to the Coliseum on Saturday needing a victory over unranked USC to advance to the Bowl Championship Series title game. It is the eighth time that the Trojans will play a No. 1 Fighting Irish team, the sixth time they will do so at home.

USC began the season ranked No. 1 in several polls but fell out of the Associated Press top 25 after last week's 38-28 loss to UCLA, a defeat that dropped the Trojans' record to 7-4.

Notre Dame (11-0) began the season unranked. The Irish steadily climbed throughout the season and last week ascended to the top of the Associated Press media poll and the BCS standings after they defeated Wake Forest, 38-0, and Oregon and Kansas State suffered defeats.

USC has not faced an undefeated Notre Dame team since 1993, when the Trojans lost to the second-ranked Fighting Irish, 31-13, at South Bend, Ind. But here come the Irish, needing a victory over the Trojans to earn a shot at their 12th consensus national title.

A look at the six games and highlights when USC played No. 1 Notre Dame teams at the Coliseum.

Dec. 3, 1938: No. 8 USC 13, No. 1 Notre Dame 0

Playing before a crowd of 104,000 at the Coliseum, USC scored on a pass from tailback Oliver Day to Al Krueger with five seconds left in the first half.

Many Trojans fans holding large cards that were intended for use in the traditional halftime stunt let them fly instead.

Wrote The Times' Bill Henry: "High in the air in thousands of different directions went the cards, arching off like a rainbow that had suddenly exploded."

Mickey Anderson rushed for a short touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Dec. 6, 1947: No. 1 Notre Dame 38, No. 3 USC 7

USC had a record of 7-0-1 going into the game, but Notre Dame rolled through the Trojans, rushing for 397 of their 461 yards.

John Lujack also intercepted two passes before a crowd of nearly 105,000.

"Notre Dame's greatest football team yesterday gave Southern California its worst defeat in the history of this intersectional rivalry … before the largest crowd to witness a grid contest in the United States this season," The Times' Paul Zimmerman wrote.

Nov. 28, 1964: USC 20, No. 1 Notre Dame 17

USC's legendary 55-24 comeback victory over the Fighting Irish would come 10 years later, but this still qualifies as one of the greatest.

Irish quarterback John Huarte and receiver Jack Snow helped Notre Dame build a 17-0 halftime lead.

Mike Garrett rushed for a touchdown and USC quarterback Craig Fertig connected with Fred Hill for another to make the score, 17-13.

With less than two minutes remaining, the Trojans had the ball at Notre Dame's 15-yard line. Receiver Rod Sherman came to the huddle from the sideline with a play — 84-Z delay. A month earlier, Sherman had caught a game-winning pass against California with less than a minute to play.

He did it again with 1:33 left.

"I thought the ball must have weighed 100 pounds in the Cal game," he said at the time, "and this time it must have weighed at least 300."

USC's elation turned to anger after the game when representatives from the eight schools in what was then the AAWU chose 8-2 Oregon State over 7-3 USC as "the most representative team" for the Rose Bowl. The Trojans did not play Oregon State that season.

USC Athletic Director Jess Hill said at the time that the decision was "the rankest injustice that ever occurred in the field of intercollegiate athletics."

Nov. 26, 1966: No. 1 Notre Dame 51, No. 10 USC 0

Notre Dame Coach Ara Parseghian had been criticized for playing for a 10-10 tie the week before at Michigan State.

So the Fighting Irish took it out on the Trojans.

Notre Dame quarterback Coley O'Brien passed for three touchdowns.

"This Notre Dame team can't play in states that ban capital punishment," Times columnist Jim Murray wrote. "USC made lots of mistakes, not the least of which was showing up."

Nov. 26, 1988: No. 1 Notre Dame 27, No. 2 USC 10

Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz suspended running backs Ricky Watters and Tony Brooks the night before the game for disciplinary reasons.

But the Trojans could not overcome four turnovers and a shoulder injury suffered by quarterback Rodney Peete.

Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice scored on a 65-yard run and Stan Smagala intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown as the Fighting Irish extended their winning streak against the Trojans to six games.

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