The Trojans regain the Jeweled Shillelagh, beats the Fighting Irish 31-17


THEY said that USC didn’t have what it took to beat Notre Dame. THEY said that Lane Kiffin would not be the first USC head coach to win his first road test against Notre Dame. And most egregiously of all, THEY said that USC was 9-point underdogs to the Fighting Irish.

And to all of that, ‘SC said: NOT TODAY!

The Men of Troy marched into Notre Dame Stadium with more swag than they have had all season, and they rode that momentum to a 31-17 victory, leaving a tear on Touchdown Jesus’ face and destruction in their wake. USC had been getting no kind of love or respect from the media and critics going into this game even though they were 5-1 and the Trojans put on a show worthy of regaining the respect that it seems everyone and their mom refuses to give this program.

Nickell Robey stripping the ball from a Notre Dame Receiver. Robey would get the interception that put the Irish out of reach. C/O Matt Cashore

USC quickly put up 17 unanswered points against the Irish by utilizing a ground assault that hadn’t been utilized all year. Though the Trojans scored no TDs on the ground (they all came through the air, with Matt Barkley connecting with tight end Randall Telfer once and Robert Woods twice), it was the running game that successfully led ‘SC to the endzone. Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal combined for 185 of the Trojans’ 219 rushing yards, establishing a consistent, strong rushing attack for the first time since USC faced Utah. Defensively, the Wall of Troy stood firm, forcing Notre Dame off the field and giving up no points in the first quarter. The Trojans were making this game look easier than that 2005 Orange Bowl against Oklahoma that never happened.

The Fighting Irish lived up to their nickname—temporarily anyway—and surged back in the 2nd quarter to bring the score within one possession. On a kickoff, Notre Dame’s George Atkinson III ran it 96 yards for a touchdown, and Notre Dame was back in the game. Shortly after, they charged down the field again but were held to a field goal, scoring 10 unanswered points and bringing the score to 17-10.

At this point in the game, the momentum had clearly shifted. The Irish fans were getting hyped and the Trojans looked eerily subdued. Up to this point, USC had been dominant, leaving many fans in the stadium asking themselves why exactly the Trojans were underdogs in this game. Then suddenly, Notre Dame methodically moved down the field, pinning the Trojan defense within the 10-yard line. On the verge of scoring, Notre Dame found itself poised to make a comeback, to make it a game again.

Robert Woods makes a diving catch. C/O Matt Cashore

And then, as if ordained by the Lord, quarterback Tommy Rees choked and fumbled. Free safety Jawanza Starling proceeded to swoop in and return what will probably be the easiest touchdown of his career.

USC now commanded a 24-10 lead, and though the Irish would put up another touchdown courtesy of running back Jonas Gray, more mistakes on their part made it easy for the Trojans to put this one away. Shortly after the greatest 3rd and Goal fail of all time in the USC/Notre Dame rivalry, the Irish gave it away again when they fumbled a lateral, which linebacker Chris Galippo recovered. Matt Barkley connected with Robert Woods for a 14-yard touchdown, giving USC a 31-17 lead, which they would hold on to.

The final minutes of the game proved to be interesting though, but not necessarily because of what happened on the field. Sure, Nickell Robey put the nail in Notre Dame’s coffin when he picked off Rees in the final six minutes of the game, but what happened after that was the story of the post-game. Once USC had the ball back, it seemed that the Trojans had taken all of the fight out of the Irish, because they made no attempt to force USC to punt the ball back to them. Notre Dame still had two timeouts, yet didn’t use any of them on USC’s final drive. After the win, linebacker Chris Galippo called out Notre Dame for this, essentially saying that going out like chumps is not the way the rivalry should be played.

Even so, USC would graciously take the win, and the 6-1 record that comes with it. Matt Barkley put on his best road performance thus far, passing for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns. This win comes at a very important time for the Trojans, as they welcome the Stanford Cardinal to the Coliseum next week. It served as a reminder that there is such a thing as playing for pride, and right now, the Trojans should have a lot of it. And to go with the new found pride, the Trojans will bring the jeweled shillelagh to Heritage Hall, where it belongs.

Like a boss.