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Nov. 30, 1996
USC Downs Notre Dame In Battle For Shillelagh, 27-20
LOS ANGELES, CA -- After 13 years, the reign of
terror is over. Behind battered quarterback Brad Otton, the
University of Southern California battled back from an
eight-point deficit and zero offensive yardage in the third
quarter to beat 10th-ranked Notre Dame 27-20 in overtime. Otton,
knocked out of play in the first series of the game, returned to
the field in the third quarter to tally 183 total yards and two
touchdown's on 13-of-25 passing.
|Notre Dame's Ben Guilbeaux intercepts a Matt Koffler pass in the end zone late in the first half.|
Last week against UCLA, Otton was forced to watch his team
suffer its second overtime loss of the year. It was not going to
be that way tonight.
"I definitely knew I was hurt and where I got hurt," said
Otton, who was suffering from bruised ribs. "But the worst I
felt was last week when I had to come out and watch my team play
without me in overtime. I wasn't going to let that happen
Otton engineered the final USC (6-6) overtime drive, completing
all three of his passes, including a 5-yard toss to Rodney
Sermons for the game-winning score. Notre Dame failed to reach
the end zone with its ensuing overtime possession, with the game
ending when USC linebacker Mark Cusano batted down a Ron Powlus
pass on fourth down.
"This is an awful way to end the season," admitted Powlus.
"This is an awful way to end my career if we don't go to a bowl
game. We wanted to send coach Holtz out right, but we didn't."
The Irish (8-3) held the game in the palm of their hands entering
the fourth quarter. The Trojans offense did not muster any net
yardage in the third quarter, and the first Irish drive of the
final period seemed destined to reach the end zone.
They never quite made it.
Powlus' pass was caught my Malcolm Johnson inside the 5-yard
line, but the receiver fumbled it away, giving USC possession at
its own 1.
"I lost my concentration," Johnson said. "Coach told us
after the game just to keep our heads up. But it really is a
terrible way to end the season."
After the Irish defense forced the Trojans to punt the
football away, returner Allen Rossum added to the USC effort,
fumbling the kick and allowing USC to regain possession at
the Notre Dame 12.
Otton's 5-yard TD pass to Chris Miller came four plays
later, but the failed two-point conversion attempt kept Notre
Dame in the lead, 14-12.
"I just lost my concentration," Rossum said. "It was a fair
catch all the way and I just didn't make the catch."
The Irish running game pounded its way down the field, as
Robert Farmer and Autry Denson brought Notre Dame back into USC
territory. Denson, who finished with 160 yards on the ground,
carried the ball six times on the eight-play scoring drive,
including the 9-yard burst around the right end that put six
points on the board for the Irish.
It would not be enough.
Kicker Jim Sanson could not put the ball between the poles
on Notre Dame's extra point try, kicking it wide left from
Powlus' hold. The missed attempt kept USC in the game, only
eight points away in a 20-12 ballgame.
"I let the fifth-year seniors down," said a distraught
Sanson. "(The hold) was fine. I need to grow up."
With the majority of the 90,296 voices on their side, USC
stuck in the game, and with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter,
attacked the Irish defense on the ground and in the air. Delon
Washington registered the final blows of the drive on a 15-yard
TD run and a carry for the two-point conversion score.
Washington finished the game with a team-high 67 yards on 15
After a questionable ground game all night, the Trojans
surprised Notre Dame by putting the ball in the hands of their
backs with the win in jeopardy.
Notre Dame stymied the Trojan offense to minimal rushing
yards through the first three periods, holding them to 52 net
yards. But it was Notre Dame's mistakes that ended the 13-year
win streak against USC, including Johnson's and Rossum's
fourth-quarter miscues. Also, Emmett Mosley fumbled a first-quarter
reception, leading to a USC field goal, and Rossum lost a
second-quarter punt to bring the fumble tally to four.
For Rossum and Sanson, it has been a season of ups and
downs. After two kick-return touchdowns against Pittsburgh,
Rossum's two fumbles put USC in prime field position, a luxury
the Trojans enjoyed most of the game.
Sanson, brought into the spotlight in the Texas contest with
a game-winning field goal, has a place in the doghouse for
himself after missing the extra point. The kicker's
inconsistency has hurt the Irish all season, and the costly miss
is a prime examply of his, and Notre Dame's rollercoaster
The positives for Notre Dame came few and far between in
head coach Lou Holtz's final regular-season contest. Renaldo
Wynn's 10 tackles, including two for losses, and a sack helped
the Irish defense corral the Trojan offense for the majority of
Safety Ben Guilbeaux was the lone force in the Irish
secondary, intercepting a Matt Koffler pass in the end zone to
stop a USC scoring threat and preserve a 7-6 Irish lead late in
the first half.
Denson recorded career-highs with 33
rushing attempts for 160 net yards.
USC's come-from-behind victory not only ended the 13-year
dominance for Notre Dame, but may it have also saved the career of John
Robinson. USC's legendary coach has been under fire during his team's
mediocre season, but he tried to emphasize that a win over Notre
Dame should not be a factor in considering his future at USC.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1OT Total
--- --- --- --- --- -----
Notre Dame (10) 0 7 7 6 0 20
USC 6 0 0 14 7 27
USC -- Adam Abrams 30 field goal, 2:00
USC -- Adam Abrams 38 field goal, 9:47
ND -- Jamie Spencer 1 run (Jim Sanson kick), 0:37
ND -- Cikai Champion 25 pass from Ron Powlus (Jim Sanson kick), 14:37
USC -- Chris Miller 5 pass from Brad Otton (two-point conversion attempt failed), 6:39
ND -- Autry Denson 9 run (PAT failed), 11:08
USC -- Delon Washington 15 run (Delon Washington two-point conversion run), 13:10
USC -- Rodney Sermons 5 pass from Brad Otton (Adam Abrams kick)
Notre Dame USC
First downs 19 18
Rushed-yards 60-260 32-92
Passing yards 108 210
Sacked-yards lost 2-10 2-15
Return yards 36 59
Passes 8-19-0 16-35-1
Punts 6-42.0 7-46.1
Fumbles-lost 4-4 2-0
Penalties-yards 6-65 7-61
Time of possession 36:00 24:00
Rushing: Notre Dame - Denson 33-160, Farmer 8-54, Spencer 13-45,
Powlus 6-1. USC - Washington 15-67, Walters 9-28, Sermons 3-10,
Claiborne 1-3, L Woods 1-2, Otton 1-minus 8, Koffler 2-minus 10.
Passing: Notre Dame - Powlus 8-19-0-108. USC - Otton 13-25-0-183, L
Woods 0-2-0-0, Koffler 3-8-1-27.
Receiving: Notre Dame - Mosley 3-29, M Johnson 2-41, Champion
1-25, Spencer 1-7, Chryplewicz 1-6. USC - C Miller 4-69,
Bastianelli 3-68, Soward 3-25, Sermons 3-23, Washington 2-18,