Throwback Thursday: The Comeback, 1974


In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we are going to take you back to the Golden Age at USC, in the days of head coach John McKay and his incredibly talented rosters (including USC current AD, Pat Haden). There are many moments that can be reflected upon from this period, but today we will focus on one that featured one of the most defining moments in the history of a rivalry. Of course, we are talking about none other than:


The USC Trojans and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have been going at it since 1929, but the ’74 season might just mark the greatest point in the rivalry. Notre Dame came into the Coliseum and got to work quickly giving USC the business: they opened up a 24-0 lead on the Trojans in the first half, and showed all of zero mercy in the process. All hoped seemed lost until the final ten seconds of the half, when running back Anthony Davis scored from a seven-yard pass from quarterback Pat Haden.

Davis was just getting started.

We don’t know what legendary coach John McKay said to his boys in the locker room, but I imagine it was something like, “NOT TODAY!” because the Trojans came back into the game ready to DO WORK. At the start of second half, Davis took the opening kickoff of and torched 102 yards of the Coliseum to the endzone, bringing the score to 24-14.

Of course, we all know what happened next: USC unloaded on Notre Dame, opening the floodgates of a beat down as the Trojans rallied for 35 points in the third quarter. Davis scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, and Haden threw two TD passes to his homeboy, and the coache’s son, J.K. McKay. In the fourth quarter, John McKay went Mortal Kombat on the Irish, ordering his boys to “FINISH THEM!” And the Trojans obliged: Haden hit Shelton Diggs for a touchdown and Charles Phillips returned an interception 58 yards for the final, go-for-the-jugular TD.

If you’re keeping score, you will notice that Notre Dame never got on the board in the second half. To add insult to injury—and probably the first real reason why USC is called “Arrogant Nation”—the Trojans unleashed this hellacious beatown in just 17 minutes. Let that sink in for a second.

SEVENTEEN MINUTES. That’s just disrespectful!

After the game, the Reverend Theodore Martin Hesburgh—the then-president of Notre Dame—said to coach McKay, “That wasn’t very nice.” McKay, an Irish-Catholic known for his quick tougue, shot “That’s what you get for hiring a Presbyterian,” referring to Irish coach Ara Parseghian’s faith. At the end of the season, Parseghian announced his resignation and the Irish showed him out with grace in an emotional 13-11 win over Alabama and Bear Bryant in the Orange Bowl.

But we don’t care about that. What we care about is that USC came back from the brink of death, fought on like the Trojans they embody, and pulled off an incredible upset. Many football historians cite this game as one of USC’s 10 greatest games, and it’s no surprise why.

To watch that epic comeback one more time, click here.

Check back next week for more great moments in the history of Troy.