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2014 Game 12: USC vs. Notre Dame

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-4) at USC Trojans (7-4)

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 12:30 p.m. PT on FOX

Irish to Watch: Senior QB Everett Golson

Golson.jpgGolson has ridden the wave at Notre Dame leading the Irish to an undefeated 2012 season before Alabama blew them away in the BCS Championship Game. Then, he sat out the 2013 season due to academic issues, but he won the starting job back this year and looked like a Heisman contender through a perfect 6-0 start.  However, in the last eight games, he has turned the ball over 20 times, which is more than 75 FBS have turned the ball over this season. Not coincidentally, the turnovers have caught up to Golson and the Irish as they come into this rivalry game having lost four of five.

3 Keys

Stick with the Theme

The Trojans are +9 in turnover margin this season, which plays nicely into Notre Dame's weakness.  USC QB Cody Kessler has thrown interceptions in back-to-back games, but he still owns a remarkable 30:4 TD:INT ratio.  Golson nearly matches Kessler with 29 TD passes proving how explosive he can be, but he more than triples the USC QB throwing away 13 interceptions on the campaign.  The Trojans could use some short fields to rebuild confidence after last week's offensive sputter.

Finish Them

The Fighting Irish may have lost their fight for 2014 with four wins in the last five contests, including home upsets at the hands of Northwestern and Louisville. If the Trojans can start fast, reverting to their first quarter prowess from most of the season, and work the running game, which will protect the young offensive line, they can bury Notre Dame. On the other hand, if USC lets the Golden Domers hang around, the Irish are dangerous enough to steal their third straight in the Coliseum.

Time to Get One

The USC true junior class featuring core players like Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor and Buck Allen has never tasted victory over UCLA or Notre Dame.  USC careers are defined by rivalry records and moments, so unsurprisingly, Williams said if he does not beat the Irish, it would be "something I would regret for the rest of my life." For a program building through youth in year one under head coach Steve Sarkisian, a win could kick start momentum going into bowl season and then a huge recruiting class.

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One Last Run

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The 2014 Senior Class is a small, but mighty group of survivors. For the fifth-year seniors like LB Hayes Pullard and TE Randall Telfer, they have seen everything and more including playing for four different head coaches, winning 10 games twice despite a diminished roster, and all kinds of unforeseen drama.

The loyal 11 will be honored Saturday before the Notre Dame game with one last run out of the Coliseum tunnel and through the Heritage Tunnel.  Please get to your seats early to applaud these Men of Troy.

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Top Plays: USC vs. ND

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On the eve of the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football, enjoy some of USC's greatest plays against Notre Dame.


"The Comeback" Turns 40

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

This Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the greatest game in the history of USC football. "The Comeback", as the game is fondly known, featured Anthony Davis on a one-man mission to defeat the Fighting Irish and displayed the indomitable spirit of Trojan football. 

With the Trojans down 24-0 late in the second quarter, quarterback Pat Haden found Davis in the end zone to put USC on the board before halftime. Head coach John McKay rallied his troops in the locker room and the Trojans erupted in the third quarter, scoring 35 unanswered points to put No. 6 USC up 41-24 with a quarter to play. Davis, who had 11 touchdowns against Notre Dame in his career, kicked off the offensive overhaul, taking back the opening kickoff of the second half 102 yards for a touchdown just as his head coach predicted. He followed the return with two short runs for scores and J.K. McKay caught two touchdown passes from Haden to conclude the quarter. 

The comeback turned into a rout as the Trojans finished the game in dominant fashion, beating their intersectional rival 55-24. USC would go on to win its fourth national title under John McKay, defeating Ohio State, 18-17, in the Rose Bowl in another come-from-behind victory.


Notre Dame Thursday: Sarkisian Presser

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The Trojans put in some work on Thanksgiving morning and now head out to enjoy the holiday before returning tomorrow to finish off Notre Dame preparations.

Here is head coach Steve Sarkisian:


Happy Thanksgiving!

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Bright Future

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USC has played 11 true freshmen this season, including eight that started at least one game, in part out of necessity, but also because this class is filled with exceptional talent.  While young players are prone to growing pains, the Trojan phenoms have flashed brilliance throughout the campaign led by CB Adoree' Jackson, WR JuJu Smith and OL Toa Lobendahn, who are all legitimate Freshman All-America candidates.

"It's helped us win this year, but I really think for our future, it really sets the stage for what an opportunity we have coming down the road," head coach Steve Sarkisian said about this freshman class.

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Notre Dame Wednesday: Player Reaction

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Our David Foley checked in with WR George Farmer, OL Viane Talamaivao and CB Kevon Seymour to see how preparations are going for the big rivalry game against Notre Dame.


Notre Dame Wednesday: Notes

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The Trojans remained physical and energetic at practice.
  • "If a Wednesday practice, 12-13 weeks into the season, is any indication of the type of team we have, these guys were awesome today. They competed like crazy," said head coach Steve Sarkisian after another spirited session.
  • Leonard Williams body slammed RB James Toland IV during a scrimmage period, which put everyone on notice that the Trojans will not be pushed around this week. "He only knows one way to play the game," said Sarkisian about the All-American. "He has not been 100% healthy, but he comes out and plays his tail off."
  • Williams is an obvious candidate to declare for the NFL after this season, so he wants to make sure that he gets a win over Notre Dame before leaving USC. If he is not able to beat the Irish, he said it would be "something I would regret for the rest of my life."
  • In order to get that coveted rivalry win, the Trojans will need to force turnovers. Notre Dame QB Everett Golson is explosive, but he is also prone to tipped balls and strip-sacks, both of which Sarkisian is emphasizing this week.
  • The head coach sees a lot of similarities between these two 7-4 teams. They both could be 9-2 if they made a couple winning plays to finish close games. "We're two teams that unfortunately for us have found a way to lose a couple of those games," said Sarkisian. "It will be a huge point of emphasis of ours when we come back in January for the next nine months leading up until next season."
  • Senior captain Hayes Pullard has only one more chance to run out of the Coliseum tunnel, but the Crenshaw Cougar, who wore his high school jersey today, has not wrapped his head around the finality of it all just yet. "It probably won't sink in until Saturday," Pullard said. "I'm just focused on day-by-day and making sure I make every day count."
  • Sarkisian gave the team a homework assignment to write down what they are thankful for. "I am thankful to have the group of brothers that I have on this field since I stepped foot on this campus," said Pullard.
  • TE Bryce Dixon is "on pace to be ready to play" as he recovers from a concussion.
  • Finally, Sarkisian was asked his favorite Thanksgiving dish. "Look at me, I like it all," the head coach laughed.
  • Here is Sarkisian's post-practice presser:


50th Anniversary of Fertig to Sherman

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Saturday's match-up between USC and Notre Dame is the 86th rendition of the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football. It is also the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest games in the historic rivalry, the epic comeback of 1964 in which the Trojans defeated the Fighting Irish, 20-17.

Coming into that game, Notre Dame quarterback John Huarte had just been named the Heisman winner, and the 9-0 Irish, led by legendary head coach Ara Parseghian had their sights set on a potential national championship. As the nation's top ranked team, Notre Dame looked to have a commanding lead over the unranked Trojans at the half, up 17-0. But, USC came roaring back in the second half to make it 17-13, and on fourth-and-eight, with just 1:33 to play, quarterback Craig Fertig hit Rod Sherman for the winning touchdown.

Click here for more from Garry Paskwietz.

The 1964 Trojan team featured Fertig, who set eight school passing records that season as well as All-American halfback Mike Garrett (who would win the Heisman the following season). USC was coached by the great John McKay who would lead the Trojans to four national titles and five Rose Bowl victories in his 16 year tenure as head coach.

1964 - USC WR ROD SHERMAN CATCHES WINNING TD PASS FROM CRAIG FERTIG TO BEAT NOTRE DAME, 20-17, IN 1964 - ROD SHERMAN.jpg