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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS USC, 1929

Notre Dame Outplays Trojans

USC At Stagg Field Practice
The University of Southern California football attempting to hold a secret practice at Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, November 15, 1929. USC will play Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago tomorrow where it is expected that 110,000 fans will see the game.
Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images

This week I’m going to continue my series on Notre Dame Fighting Irish national championship seasons with their second championship season, 1929. I’ve decided to highlight the November 16th, ND vs. USC game, at Soldier’s Field in Chicago. In this excerpt from the 1929 Notre Dame Football Review, you’ll see the story of Notre Dame’s narrow margin of victory over the USC Trojans. And, in this issue, there is some great stuff on the week leading up to the game (“Pep Week”), and the sophomore hall’s winning woodpile and subsequent bonfire. There is also some good content in there regarding the brand new stadium to open in 1930. Be sure to check it out!

Perhaps Notre Dame and Southern California are not the two best football teams in the world, but to say that they were on the afternoon of November 16 is to digress very little, if any, from the absolute truth.

Every move they made was flawless, exact. They incorporated into one thrilling hour everything that stands for football. They played hard, clean football all the way through, never asking any quarter, never complaining on breaks of the game, never disputing a decision - just fighting for all they were worth and loving it.

Each score was planned, although, as we shall point out, a break helped the Trojans to their first one. Saunder’s 92-yard run was not an accident; in fact, Notre Dame had developed a defense for just such an occurrence, but was blocked out by charging Trojans. Tom Conley’s 54-yard touchdown play was worked for smaller yardage time and again, and Savoldi’s score was the result of straight football.

The pass from Duffield to Aspit for the game’s first score may have worked anyhow, but it came out after the game that “Bucky” O’Connor, who was supposed to be covering Aspit, had just received a beautiful shiner around his right eye and couldn’t see a thing when the play occurred. He didn’t take time out because he was afraid that “Rock” would jerk him. It must have been hard to lose such a fiercely fought game by the slim margin of one point, but the men from the West took their defeat like real Trojans.

It was spirit like his that won for Notre Dame and that makes Notre Dame the most popular team in the country today. Her men never give up. As at Carnegie Tech, they were fighting to keep their record clean, to avenge last year’s defeat, and for Coach Rockne, who was again with them in spite of his doctor’s forebodings. The “doc” had told him that if he would stay in bed for three weeks he would be up walking again by Christmas. “Rock” answered to this effect: “The season’s over in three weeks and there’s nothing worth walking to then. I wouldn’t miss this game if I had to stay in bed all winter.”

The friendly feeling between these two powerful gridiron opponents was strengthened rather than weakened by their 1929 meeting.

Rockets Beat U.S.C. To Clear Last Year’s Slate

Crowd listening to USC - Notre Dame game, Southern California, 1929 [image]
Photograph of crowd listening to USC - Notre Dame game, Southern California, 1929.
Photo by Dick Whittington Studio/Corbis via Getty Images

“Hero of the Day”

Against Georgia Tech, Tom had caught the only Notre Dame pass that worked and had put the ball on the one-yard line. He resolved then and there that he would carry it over at the next chance. And how he did!

With Notre Dame trailing by six points in the Trojan battle in the second period, he snatched a beautiful 3 5-yard pass from Elder and ran twenty yards to tie the score and put a new vigor into his team that was to result in a glorious victory.

Another time, he put the ball in scoring position with a difficult catch, but the chance was lost on a fumble. He played real defensive ball, too, but his score was the thing.

By ARCH WARD Chicago Tribune Staff Writer

University of Southern California’s stalwart band of football players traveled 2,300 miles to be humbled yesterday by the toe of a lad who cavorts in the Notre Dame back field.

His name is Frank Carideo, a cool, clever athlete whose successful kick after his team’s second touchdown enabled Notre Dame to win, 13 to 12, in one of the finest football wars any crowd ever witnessed. There were 120,000 banked. around the gridiron at Soldiers’ Field to watch him do it.

Furious Line Play

It was a battle of furious line play and brilliant forward passing. The deadly tackling and charging defense of both teams broke up play after play. It was man to man, body to body, fought with unrelenting fierceness, but minus any show of ill feeling.

The Trojans scored their first touchdown almost before the huge crowd had been seated. A forward pass, Duffield to Aspit, caught the Notre Dame secondary napping and Aspit raced unmolested to the goal. The Irish also struck through the air for their first score. It came in the second period on a 54-yard pass from Elder into the arms of Conley, who traveled unopposed to the goal.

Notre Dame scored its second touchdown on straight football. AI though facing a heavier line, the Irish surged mass upon mass, thundering forth a might that few of their followers believed possible. Savoldi was the great man in the spectacular march. He merited the honor of making the touchdown.

Here Comes the Thriller

Before Notre Dame rooters had time to sit back and enjoy their 13 to 6 lead, came the most thrilling play of the game. Russell. Saunders, Southern California quarterback, caught the kickoff on his eight-yard line and in less time than it takes to tell about it he raced through the Notre Dame team for a touchdown. Few players ever have done that against a Rockne coached eleven.

The stands were hushed when James Musick, the Trojan full-back poised for the kick that was either to tie the score or send his mates back to California a beaten team. The effort was wide by inches.

Notre Dame Outplays Trojans

Perhaps it was only justice that Musick missed the kick. Notre Dame had an edge in all-around play. It missed a touchdown in the first quarter when Brill fumbled on the Trojans’ one-yard line. It missed another touchdown in the second period when an ineligible man caught a forward pass behind the California goal.

The Notre Dame line refused to be fooled by the westerners’ puzzling shift and fancy maneuvers. Ends were tricked by laterals and sweeps at rare intervals, but the backs, particularly Brill, came up like express trains to smack the ball carrier all over the sward. There was a demon Notre Dame guard named Jack Cannon who never was fooled. He played the whole scrimmage line. There was no getting by him nor through him.

There was great honor but no disgrace attached to yesterday’s struggle. Notre Dame won because it had a little more stuff.

Next week I’ll feature a game from the 1930 national championship season. Got any suggestions for future features? Let me know!

Cheers & GO IRISH!