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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football VS USC, 1951

Trojans Conquered in Stunning Upset

Here is former USC great Frank Gifford gaining a first down against Notre Dame in 1951.
Scott Wolf

We’ve arrived at the second big game I’ve had circled on my calendar for months ... the Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs the USC Trojans. As we count down to kickoff, this week I’m going to throwback to the 1951 meeting between the two teams on December 1st, in Los Angeles, California.

Notre Dame and USC have met a total of 90 times, with Notre Dame winning 48, USC winning 37, and 5 tie games. 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 is 11, from 1983-1993; and USC’s longest win streak is 7, from 2002-2009. Notre Dame and USC both have had 11 national championships. Notre Dame and USC both have had 7 Heisman Trophy winners. Notre Dame has spent 863 weeks in the AP Poll, and 98 weeks at AP No. 1. And USC has spent 809 weeks in the AP Poll, and 91 weeks at AP No. 1.

The below excerpt from the 1951 meeting between Notre Dame and USC is from the December 7, 1951, issue of the Notre Dame Football Review.

Trojans Conquered in Stunning Upset

By Bill Riley

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec. 1—An 18- year-old young man by the name of Ralph Guglielmi, barring- acts of God or his local draft board, this afternoon nailed down the Notre Dame starting quarterback’s job for three years yet to come. He did it by directing his predominantly young and consistently aggressive mates to a surprising 19-12 win over Southern California.

Lest all the applause for the stirring triumph go to the youngsters, it should be mentioned that seniors Chet Ostrowski, left end, Captain Jim Mutscheller, right end. Bob Toneff, tackle who played both offense and defense, and John Petitbon were also big factors in the victory.

For awhile, it looked as if the game were going to go according to form. After a scoreless first quarter, the Trojans took the ball on their own 38, and in eight plays, Frank Gifford had spearheaded S. C. to a touchdown. In the series, Gifford passed for 18 yards to blocking back Dean Schneider, and ran the ball three times himself. He scored on a slant from the Irish eight-yard line. However, he missed the try for the extra point.

It was then that the Irish coaching staff elected to give young Guglielmi an opportunity to run the squad. Guglielmi responded in a most satisfying way. It took him 13 plays to move the Irish 78 yards down-field, an average of six yards per play. Eight halfback John Lattner provided the score with a one-yard plunge over Bob Toneff’s right tackle position.

The alert Trojans got their second and final score on a bit of a break early in the third period. Dick Nunis of Southern California picked off a Guglielmi pass that had bounced out of Chet Ostrowski’s hands on the Irish 34. Schneider flipped a short one to Jim Sears who ran the ball to the Notre Dame five. That was a third down pass, following a three-yard loss by Al Carmichael and an incomplete pass. It was thrown from the T-formation, which S.C. used sparingly in a predominantly single wing attack. On the next play the Trojans went back into the single wing, and Sears followed a superfluity of blockers around right end for a touchdown. Gifford again failed to convert.

Guglielmi led the Irish to their second score in a very workmanlike way. After Gene Carrabine, a freshman, had intercepted a Southern California pass on the Notre Dame 27, it took eight plays for the Irish to push the ball over. This is how it went. Lattner over guard for four, Joe Heap, frosh left half, for four more. Worden for a first down on the 37. Worden twice up the middle for nine. And Lattner over guard for the first down, on the Southern California 47. Then Lattner went through the center for eight. With the Trojan defenders pulled in, Guglielmi placed two flankers out to the right, gave the ball to Worden, who cut to his left, slanted off-tackle, and raced 39 yards down the sidelines without being touched. Joseph missed the point-after attempt.

It was the fourth quarter before the Irish put the game in their pocket. With the ball resting on the Irish 39, Guglielmi tossed to Lattner. Lattner dodged, whirled and plunged to the Tjojan 30. John Petitbon, Worden and Lattner all had a hand in the scoring march. Of the 30 yards, Lattner got 14, Worden six, and Petitbon the remaining 10. Petitbon climaxed his four years at Notre Dame by sweeping right end for eight yards and the winning touchdown. This time Joseph converted.

So ... what do you think our chances are of beating USC this week? Are they overrated? Are we up to the challenge? What say you?

Next week the Irish face the University of Pittsburgh at home. Got any suggestions for next week’s story ... send ‘em my way!

Cheers & GO IRISH!