Here we are ... it’s my favorite game of the season: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. the USC Trojans. After living in Southern California for 10 years, I love watching my Irish smack down the Trojans. There’s nothing better, in my book, than a ND-USC match-up on a fall (preferably sunny) day in South Bend. Last year I looked back to the Notre Dame vs. USC match-up in the fall of 1988. This year I’m going to look back to 1989, when the USC Trojans came to Notre Dame and tried to upset a Fighting Irish team that was ranked No. 1 and was on an 18-game win streak. At half time the Trojans thought things were looking pretty good, but they didn’t get the outcome they had hoped for.
But before the game even started, there was a little drama during warm ups. Coach Holtz would end up taking the blame for the incident, but looking back on it, the evidence seems to point towards USC being the instigators of the scuffle. (He even went so far as to say that he’d resign if it ever happened again.) Here’s how it played out from the perspective of senior Trojan wide receiver John Jackson.
“At Notre Dame, the way the stadium is structured, the opponent warms up on the far side away from the locker room while Notre Dame warms up closer to the locker room,” Jackson said. “The tunnel is located right behind the goal post so if the visiting team is done warming up before the home team, they either have to go around them or find some way to go through them.”
“As we finished our warm-ups, I noticed the Notre Dame offense was on the field but the reserve guys were lined up along the back line, basically blocking our entrance to the tunnel. I heard some of our guys saying ‘we’re not going around’ and I thought to myself ‘this is going to get ugly.’”
“At that point, you have to remember, we had lost to them the year before in a game that was basically with the national championship on the line, which was heartbreaking. We had never beaten them to that point in my career. I have never been so focused for any game as I was that day.”
“As soon as I heard all the talk heading to the tunnel I knew I had to keep my concentration because this was not what I came here for, I came here to win a game. Of course, a skirmish broke out, a fight, and I saw their corner Todd Lyght, he and I just kind of stayed to the side and the fight broke up rather quickly. The last thing I was going to do was hurt my hands and not be able to play.”
Even though the Irish would head into the locker room trailing 17-7 at the half, the luck that day would belong to the Fighting Irish. USC quarterback Todd Marinovich did his absolute best to change that, completing 33 of his 55 passes. But their halftime lead would not be enough to stop Tony Rice & company. On the winning drive Rice completed a deep pass to Rocket Ismail, which set up the TD on a Rice keeper. On the next possession the Irish batted down a Marinovich Hail Mary attempt to preserve the come-from-behind victory.
Want to re-watch the brawl ... I mean game? Here you go:
So, what are your expectations of this year’s match-up between Notre Dame and USC? Will the Irish easily handle the Trojans. Or will the Trojans be a pesky handful? I’m actually happy the weather forecast is looking a little rainy and cold. What better way to welcome our sunny California friends?!
Oh, one more thing ... will they break out the green jerseys?
Cheers & GO IRISH!