Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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The week is finally here - the week that Notre Dame fans marked on their calendars as soon as the football schedule was released.

During even-numbered years, it's a post-Thanksgiving trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum. In odd years, mid-October at home in South Bend. It's the greatest of all Irish rivalry games - Notre Dame vs. USC.

This year's matchup with USC is accompanied by more hype than any with the Trojans since, well, to borrow from J.K. Rowling, "The-Game-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named" (more on that later).

In March, the University announced that for the first time since 1990 the Irish would be hosting a night game. For just the eighth time in Notre Dame Stadium's storied history, the entirety of the contest will be played under the lights.

I touched on the early history of Notre Dame's series with USC in last week's Tradition Tuesday. This week focuses on the past several decades in the rich and exciting history of the rivalry.

During what would be Notre Dame's ninth national championship season, the eighth-ranked Irish hosted the sixth-ranked Trojans in late October of 1973. Notre Dame had not beaten the Trojans since 1966, going 0-4-2 in the previous six meetings. USC running back Anthony Davis torched the Irish defense for six touchdowns in the previous season, but this time, head coach Ara Parseghian's team kept him in check, knocking off the unbeaten Trojans, 23-14.

One of the most famous games in the history of the series came in 1977, another national championship year for Notre Dame. During the pep rally on Friday, men's basketball coach Digger Phelps called the students and fans to action. In what has often been dubbed the "Green Jersey Game," head coach Dan Devine surprised the crowd, and his team, by pulling a switch on game day.

Until returning to the locker room before kickoff, only the captains were aware of the different jerseys. The surprise ignited the Irish, who arrived on the field behind a giant Trojan horse assembled by a group of students. No. 11 Irish crushed No. 5 USC, 49-19.

From 1983-93, the Irish won 11 in a row against USC. One of those victories came in a key matchup during the 1988 national championship season when head coach Lou Holtz took his team to Los Angeles for the regular season finale. Both Notre Dame and USC were undefeated and ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, the only time that has occurred in series history. In their quest for a perfect season, the Irish jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Holtz and his team were not to be denied. Notre Dame won 27-10 and went on to beat West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl for its 11th national championship.

In 1995, the Trojans were ranked fifth in the country when they traveled to Notre Dame for the annual game. Inspired by Holtz's pep rally speech about the Notre Dame spirit, the 17th-ranked Irish ended USC's undefeated season, dashing the Trojans' title hopes, 38-10 .

Though it was a down year for both teams, the 1999 game between Notre Dame and USC proved to be a memorable one. After falling behind 21-0 in the first half, the Irish battled back, outscoring the Trojans 25-3 the rest of the way. The deciding play came with 2:40 left in the game when Jabari Holloway recovered Jarious Jackson's fumble in the end zone for an Irish touchdown. Jackson had scrambled towards the end zone, but the ball came loose as he was hit. Luckily for the Irish, Holloway was there to recover the ball for a touchdown that propelled Notre Dame to victory.

From 2002-04, Notre Dame fell to USC by a combined score of 130-37, but 2005 was expected to be a much closer game, and it certainly lived up to the hype. ESPN's College GameDay came to South Bend for the showdown between the ninth-ranked Irish and the top-ranked Trojans.

I was not at the game, but it remains one of those "never-forget-where-you-were" moments. As a high school junior, I was returning to New York from a cross-country meet at Brown University in Rhode Island. Our team bus was able to pick up NBC's broadcast, but it occasionally faded out. A couple of us were rooting for the Irish, and a teammate of mine was able to get in touch with his family who was watching the game back at home. In the closing seconds, the clock hit 0:00 and Notre Dame had pulled off a 31-28 upset ... or so we were told.

The Trojans were given one more shot to put the ball in the end zone, and well, we know how it ended.

(Note: No matter how difficult it may be to relive Oct. 15, 2005, no discussion of this series is complete without including that game - even though it may no longer be in the record books as a USC victory.)

In 2010, Notre Dame sought to break an eight-year losing streak against USC. In a rain-soaked battle, the Irish seemed headed for a ninth straight loss at the hands of the Trojans. Down 16-13 with 6:18 to play, the Irish took over on their own 23, beginning an unforgettable drive that was capped by a five-yard touchdown run by senior Robert Hughes. USC had one last chance to regain the lead, but Harrison Smith sealed the Notre Dame victory with a key interception near the end zone, ending the streak and giving the Irish a 20-16 win.

Over the years, Notre Dame and USC have played countless classic games, hard-fought battles with championships on the line. Though this year does not have title implications, it certainly could play a role in the BCS picture, at least for the Irish (the Trojans are in the second season of a two-year bowl ban). Still, the Trojans have a lot to play for on Saturday, especially with regards to recruiting. Don't be surprised if we see Notre Dame and USC pen another thriller when the lights come on this weekend.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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Event Calendar

September 4
7:30 PM
vs USF
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

September 4
4:00 PM
at Western Michigan
Kalamazoo, Mich. (WMU Soccer Complex)
September 4
4:00 PM
at Crusader Invitational
Valparaiso, Ind. (Sunset Hill Farm County Park)
September 4
7:00 PM
at Seton Hall
South Orange, N.J.

Live Video
September 5
7:30 PM
vs Texas
Notre Dame, Ind.

September 5
12:00 PM
vs Temple
South Orange, N.J.
September 5
5:30 PM
vs Hofstra
South Orange, N.J.
September 6
2:00 PM
vs UAB
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

September 6
12:00 PM
at Michigan State
East Lansing, Mich. (DeMartin Soccer Complex)

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