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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS USC Trojans, 1966

“I guess I’ve never seen a better team than Notre Dame was today.” was McKay’s appraisal.

Defensive lineman Alan Page (#81) pressures the USC quarterback.
University of Notre Dame Archive

And here we are ... Beat USC week! Here’s a little on the series history between Notre Dame and the University of Southern California. ND and USC have played each other 88 times with Notre Dame winning 47 (.556), USC winning 36 (.428), and 5 ties. Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory was 51-0 in 1966, and USC’s largest margin of victory was 38-0 in 2007. Notre Dame’s longest win streak was 11 games from 1983 and 1993, and USC’s longest win streak was 7 games from 2002-2009.

By The Numbers:

Notre Dame and USC have each won 11 National Championships.

Notre Dame has played in 37 bowl games, and USC has played in 53 bowl games.

Notre Dame’s bowl record is 18-19-0 (.486), and USC’s bowl record is 34-19-0 (.642).

Notre Dame has had 104 Consensus All-American’s, to USC’s 82.

Notre Dame has had 7 Heisman Winners, to USC’s 6.

Notre Dame has spent 98 weeks at No. 1 in the AP Poll, to USC’s 91 weeks.

In 1966 the Fighting Irish traveled to Los Angeles to face the Trojans just one week after the fabled 10-10 tie against Michigan State, but there would be no tie in the cards for USC. In the story quoted below from the 1966 Notre Dame football review, Paul Zimmerman tells the tale of Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory over the Trojans.

Coley O’Brien And ...

Sparked by a sophomore understudy at the helm Notre Dame crushes the Trojans, and as the “Los Angeles Times” sees it, dispels all doubts. (by Paul Zimmerman)

Either Notre Dame is No. 1 in nation or USC is far from being the West’s most representative team for the Rose Bowl — or both. Before an astounded crowd of 88,520 at the Coliseum Saturday, the Irish amassed 51 points while holding the Trojans scoreless. It was the largest total ever chalked up against Southern Cal.

Either Coach Ara Parseghian’s Irish have improved vastly since their 26-14 opening game triumph against Purdue or the Trojans are in for another pasting when they tackle the Boilermakers in Pasadena come Jan. 2. The whopping score was an eloquent answer to the critics who chided Coach Parseghian for playing for the tie in that 10-10 game with Michigan State a week ago.

Now, the charge may be that Notre Dame poured it on Saturday, considering that the half time score was 31-0, but the huge crowd was entitled to see the best each team had to offer. Besides, USC in its anxiety to stop the onslaught, contributed to the massacre.

As limp and exhausted as his players were after the game. Coach John McKay agreed with the Notre Dame mentor, who said:

“This is the best balanced offensive and defensive team I’ve ever coached or seen.”

“I guess I’ve never seen a better team than Notre Dame was today.” was McKay’s appraisal. “This will be a tremendous psychological handicap for us in the Rose Bowl.”’

There could be no doubt about it.

Coley O’Brien and Jim Seymour spearheaded the Notre Dame attack to become the automatic selection as leading back and lineman of the game.

Playing his first full game for the Irish, O’Brien completed 21 of 31 passes for 255 of the 461 yards amassed by Notre Dame. Three of the passes went for touchdowns.

Seymour, the great sophomore end, caught 11 passes for 150 yards and two of the three touchdowns through the air.

The bewildered USC defense, which had not allowed more than two touchdowns in any one game, saw Notre Dame accomplish this with ease in the first quarter.

When O’Brien was not throwing the ball, he was handing it to All-American Nick Eddy, Larry Conjar and Dan Harshman for devastating yardage on the ground.

The closest the Trojans came to scoring was in the third period. With the score 38-0 against it, USC moved the ball to the Irish 9 on a series of passes after Adrian Young had returned an interception 43 yards to the Notre Dame 47. The vanquished were back on the 28, when they finally gave up the ball, so stubborn was the Notre Dame defense.

The futility of the USC attack was reflected in the fact that only twice did it get much beyond midfield. The second occasion came in the fourth quarter, when against the Irish reserves, it took the pigskin to the 34.

In all fairness, it must be said that USC kept gambling, and in so doing aided the Irish scoring cause, but the Trojans had to recognize the futility of it all as early as the initial drive of the game when Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and never relinquished the ball. It simply was a case of being over-matched both offensively and defensively.

So, how do you think the Irish will fare against the Trojans this weekend? Will it be a 51-0 blowout ... or will it be much closer? What say you?

Cheers & GO IRISH!

P.S. Here is a fantastic video about the 1966 National Championship team: