USC gets 8th straight against the Irish

BY foxsports • October 25, 2009

By Tom Coyne, AP

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Jimmy
Clausen and Notre Dame pushed Southern California to the very last
second, showing the Fighting Irish could go toe-to-toe with their
fiercest rival.

Beating the Trojans, well, Charlie Weis' team still hasn't figured out how do to that.


Clausen threw three incomplete passes into the end zone in the closing
seconds, and No. 6 USC held on Saturday for a 34-27 victory, its eighth
straight win against Notre Dame.

"When it came right down to it we found ways to make plays," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

Notre Dame's streak of last-minute victories ended at three, but the Irish (4-2) at least showed they could compete with USC.


"I think anyone that doesn't realize the fight that's in the Fighting
Irish is missing the boat. It's evident if you watch the last five
games. Every week it's the same thing," Weis said. "This team's a bunch
of fighters. I'm proud of the fight. I'm disappointed with the loss,
it's never OK to lose. But they're a bunch of fighters."


USC had dominated Notre Dame the past three seasons and led 34-14 in
the fourth quarter Saturday. The Fighting Irish seemed on their way to
the type of lopsided loss that would have their supporters grumbling
about Weis again.

Instead, Clausen and the
Irish rallied back, but couldn't score into the same end zone where the
Trojans (5-1) famously scored four years ago on the Bush Push, which
gave Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and USC a 34-31 victory in Weis' first
season.

On Clausen's first pass into the
end zone, Kyle Rudolph made juggling catch but was out of bounds. The
second was knocked down by Josh Pinkard and the Trojans started
celebrating thinking the game was over.


Clausen and USC quarterback Matt Barkley, pals from southern
California, even exchanged what they thought was a post-game handshake.

But the officials ruled there was 1 second left. Clausen fired to Duval Kamara, who slipped and couldn't get a hand on it.

"Coming up short, one second to go, it's heartbreaking," Clausen said.


Barkley was 19 for 29 for 380 yards and two touchdowns to Damian
Williams, who had four catches for 108 yards. Anthony McCoy had five
catches for 153 yards.

The Trojans
appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open when Joe McKnight
dove in for a TD early in the fourth quarter.

"Down three scores, I bet everyone in the house probably figured it's time to throw in the towel. Not this group," Weis said.


The Irish closed to 34-27 midway through the fourth quarter on a 2-yard
TD run by Clausen and a 15-yard TD pass from Clausen to Golden Tate
after an interception by Irish cornerback Gary Gray.


Clausen was 24-of-43 passes for 260 yards and two touchdown passes
while facing a strong USC pass rush. He threw the ball away five times
and was sacked five times. And in the end, he gave Notre Dame a chance,
which is far more than the Irish have had in recent years against
Carroll's mighty Trojans. In the previous three meetings, USC outscored
Notre Dame 120-27.

USC linebacker Chris
Galippo said the game was more stressful that Southern Cal's 18-15 win
over Ohio State, when the Trojans scored the game-winner with 65
seconds left.

"They just kept getting
second chance after second chance after second chance, and penalties.
We would rip the ball straight our of their hands, but they fell on
it," Galippo said. "This seems to be a theme for our season, these
close games. But our defense came through there."


Tate had eight catches for 117 yards. The Irish also got a 25-yard
completion on a faked field goal attempt by holder Eric Maust that set
up another touchdown.

The Irish were aided
in their final drive by a couple of penalties by USC. Robby Parris
caught a 13-yard pass on fourth down to the USC 16, but All-American
Taylor Mays was called for a personal foul on the hit to Parris. That
got the ball to the 8. Then Malik Jackson was called two plays later
for roughing the passer, placing the ball on the 4.


But the Irish couldn't get the game to overtime and USC celebrated its
10th straight win against a ranked opponent. The Irish lost their
seventh straight to a top-10 team, matching the longest streak in
school history set from 1984-1986.

Weis was disappointed, but still proud of his team's effort.


"If you would have told me before the game, hey you can have the ball
on the 5-yard line with a chance to tie it or win, I probably would
have taken that. I'm really disappointed for those guys in there
because they're fighters," he said.

Clausen said the Irish, playing in their fifth straight game decided in the final minute, may have pushed their luck.

"When you live on the edge like that, you're not always going to come out on the winning side," he said.

Carroll said he can't explain USC's streak against Notre Dame.


"We hope to keep this thing going. It's a big deal to us. It's
special," he said. "So we've got to hang onto it next time around when
they come to our place. We have to get after it and see if we can keep
the thing going. Because it's very special for the SC family to
continue to be on top of this rivalry."


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