Top 25: No. 5 USC 38, Notre Dame 3
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 29, 2008
LOS ANGELES ó The outcome of Saturday night’s Notre Dame-Southern California game was decided early. What remains in doubt is Charlie Weis’ future with the Fighting Irish.
Mark Sanchez passed for 267 yards and two touchdowns, USC’s hard-hitting defense thoroughly dominated Notre Dame, and the fifth-ranked Trojans rolled to a 38-3 victory over the Irish and their beleaguered coach.
Notre Dame didn’t get a first down until the last play of the third quarter on a 15-yard run by James Aldridge. The Irish had run 30 plays for 23 yards before Aldridge broke loose, drawing a derisive cheer from the partisan crowd of 90,689 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
USC finished with 22 first downs and 449 yards of total offense while Notre Dame had four first downs and 91 yards. The Trojans have allowed 10 touchdowns and an NCAA low 7.8 points per game this season.
The only time Notre Dame truly put up a fight was before the game. There was a brief skirmish about 45 minutes before the opening kickoff after the Irish entered the field down the tunnel leading from the locker rooms while USC was warming up. Law enforcement officials and coaches kept it from escalating beyond some pushing and shoving, although a few punches were thrown.
By winning their eighth straight game, the Trojans kept their national championship hopes alive and, at the very least, put themselves in position to play in their fourth straight Rose Bowl game.
With No. 17 Oregon State’s 65-38 loss to No. 19 Oregon earlier Saturday, USC (10-1, 7-1 Pac-10) needs only to beat crosstown rival UCLA (4-7, 3-5) next weekend to win its seventh straight conference title and set up a New Year’s date in Pasadena with No. 6 Penn State, the Big Ten champion.
The Trojans, 27-0 in November games under coach Pete Carroll, extended their winning streak over Notre Dame to seven ó their longest in the 80-game intersectional series. They’ve won those seven games by an average of 27 points.
Notre Dame (6-6) is bowl eligible, but the Irish’s 15 losses the past two seasons are the most in any two-year span in school history. Weis’ record has dropped from 19-6 after two years on the job to 28-21.
Even so, it didn’t appear his job was in jeopardy until last weekend’s 24-23 loss to woeful Syracuse at home, prompting talk of a buyout. The embarrassment of this game for Weis, a reputed offensive specialist, could be the crowning blow. Weis has seven years left on the 10-year contract he signed in 2005, his first season with the school.