Oct. 16, 1999
By JR ROSS
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The rain came, the wind changed direction and Notre Dame felt something special. Combined with Southern Cal self-destructing, the Irish took advantage.
Jabari Holloway recovered Jarious Jackson's fumble in the end zone with 2:40 left to cap a 22-point comeback - most of it in the pouring rain - as Notre Dame rallied Saturday to beat Southern Cal 25-24 and snap a three-game losing streak to the Trojans.
"It just seems like every time they had the ball it would start raining harder and the wind would go against them," Jackson said. "To me it was just a sign that it was coming our way. It was coming in our favor."
The Irish (4-3) seemed like they would need nothing sort of divine intervention after David Newbury hit a 29-yard field goal on USC's first possession of the second half to go up 24-3.
But then Notre Dame began its biggest comeback since the a 35-34 win over Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl, thanks in part to USC's own mistakes.
A personal foul on Ifeanyi Ohalete kept Notre Dame's next drive alive as Jackson hit tight end Dan O'Leary for a 7-yard touchdown pass to begin the comeback.
USC quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst fumbled on USC's next possession after he was hit by a blitzing Ron Israel, and Jackson drove the Irish downfield as sheets of rain began to pour on the stadium. On second-and-15, he scrambled for 13 to the 4, and Driver picked up the first down before running it in from 2 yards out to score. But David Miller missed the extra point, and the Irish trailed 24-16 with 13:30 left.
Another Trojan penalty kept Notre Dame's next scoring drive alive after USC was called for holding on third-and-8 when O'Leary pulled in a 6-yard pass well short of the first down. The Irish later settled for a 33-yard Miller field goal and trailed 24-19 with 8:07 left.
"The second half (we) self-destructed, penalties at critical times, turnovers, the defense allowing the quarterback to run through us," said USC coach Paul Hackett. "I don't think there's anything I could really point to in the second half that was any good.
"It's a thrill to be part of, but God, it's painful."
The Irish then completed their comeback after taking over at their own 26 with 6:30 left. Jackson hit Tony Fisher for 28 yards down the left sideline to begin the drive and led the Irish to the 18 before he dropped back to pass. He pulled the ball down and scrambled up the middle before he was hit at the 1-yard line, fumbling into the end zone where Holloway somehow came up with it.
"It was just a mad scramble for the ball," Holloway said. "There was a lot of pushing, punching, kicking. But I fell on the ball and that was it."
The two-point conversion failed and Notre Dame withstood USC's final shot to beat the Trojans for the first time since 1995, a streak that included two losses that kept the Irish out of Bowl Championship Series appearances.
"It's funny how you know that game started out and it's sunny and it's pretty warm and SC's making plays and by the end of the game it's rainy and cold and the wind's coming with us in the fourth quarter," said Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. "You felt like if we could make some plays on defense, we'd have a chance to come back."
Jackson was once again the hero for Notre Dame, going 19-of-30 for 257 yards and a touchdown and keeping the Irish going despite an anemic running game that was limited to 119 yards and had just 13 yards on 18 carries in the first half.
"I said to myself I'm going to try to go out and make history today, especially in the second half," Jackson said. "This team was totally down. It was quiet in the lockerroom."
His performance overshadowed Van Raaphorst throwing 23-of-41 for 298 yards and two touchdowns. R. Jay Soward had 10 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
"We didn't execute on offense. We didn't execute on defense. We didn't execute on special teams," Van Raaphorst said.
Notre Dame's comeback came 25 years after USC recorded what is considered one of the most incredible comebacks in college football against the Irish, rallying from 24 points down to win 55-24, scoring all of their points in just 17 minutes.