Senior K David Ruffer and sophomore WR John Goodman each registered career firsts. Ruffer attempted his first career kickoff in an Irish uniform and Goodman registered his first career rush (out of the wildcat formation). Goodman raced 13 yards for a first down. Senior P Eric Maust also completed his first career pass on a fake field goal attempt. The pass went for 25 yards to senior WR Robby Parris to help setup Notre Dame's first touchdown of the afternoon.
The Irish have now played in five consecutive games decided by a touchdown or less. Notre Dame last played in five consecutive games decided by 7 points or less in 1983-84, when they went down to the wire in six straight with Pittsburgh (L, 16-21), Penn State (L, 30-34), Air Force (L, 22-23), Boston College (W, 19-18 in 1983 Liberty Bowl), Purdue (L, 21-23), and Michigan State (W, 24-20).
Notre Dame totaled 27 points against USC. No team has scored more against the Trojans since Nebraska totaled 31 on Sept. 15, 2007.
The Irish also passed for 285 yards against the Trojans, the most USC has yielded in a game since Illinois totaled 301 on January 1, 2008 in the Rose Bowl.
The Irish have produced numerous long scoring drives during 2009. Throw out Notre Dame's one touchdown drive after senior SS Kyle McCarthy's interception in Michigan's territory and its other touchdown drive after junior DB Gary Gray's interception in USC's territory today, and Notre Dame has traversed an average of 73.0 yards on its 20 conventional touchdown drives. Those drives have averaged 7.1 plays and include 13 drives of 70 or more yards and four of 80 yards or longer. Here's the breakdown:
Nevada: 67 yards on 12 plays, 78 yards on nine plays, 79 yards on two plays, 80 yards on eight plays and 99 yards on four plays.
Michigan: 76 yards on seven plays, 69 yards on seven plays and 80 yards on 14 plays.
Michigan State: 84 yards on four plays, 55 yards on five plays, 70 yards on six plays and 73 yards on eight plays.
Purdue: 73 yards on nine plays, 62 yards on seven plays and 72 yards on 12 plays.
Washington: 78 yards on three plays, 63 yards on five plays.
USC: 56 yards on nine plays, 78 yards on four plays and 68 yards on seven plays.
Clausen was attempting to lead Notre Dame to its fourth consecutive fourth quarter come-from-behind victory. With the Irish trailing 34-14 with 13:33 remaining in the game, the Irish signal caller guided a seven-play, 68-yard touchdown drive to bring Notre Dame within 14 at 34-20. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 39 yards on the drive and capped it off with a two-yard touchdown run.
Clausen and Notre Dame regained the ball following the interception by Gray. He went 2-for-2 for 18 yards on the drive and tossed a touchdown pass to junior WR Golden Tate with 7:28 to go in the game.
After the Irish defense stopped USC, Clausen and the Irish got the ball on their own 22-yard line. He proceeded to move Notre Dame all the way to the Trojans' four-yard line. Clausen led a 17-play march for 74 yards. Either through the air or on the ground, Clausen totaled 67 yards (60 in the air and seven on the ground) on the drive, including first down completions on a key third down play and a key fourth down play. Clausen found senior WR Robby Parris for 13 yards on a fourth and 10 to keep the drive alive.
The comeback would have been the greatest fourth quarter rally since the Irish stormed past Houston in the 1979 Cotton Bowl behind Joe Montana, erasing a 22-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 35-34 win.
Clausen was 11-for-21 for 117 yards, one touchdown rushing and one touchdown passing in the fourth quarter this afternoon. He has been at the top of his game in the fourth quarter and overtime all season. Clausen is 40-for-66 for 513 yards with six touchdowns (one on the ground) and no interceptions in the final quarter and overtime this season. Here is Clausen's breakdown in the fourth quarter and overtime:
*includes a two-yard touchdown rush
Clausen hooked up with Tate for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 5:18 to go in the third quarter to cut the USC lead to 20-14. The touchdown was the first allowed by USC all season through the air.
Clausen has now registered four touchdown passes this season of over 45 yards.
Clausen has now thrown a touchdown pass in six consecutive games.
Clausen registered his first rushing touchdown of the season and the third of his career. It was his first rushing touchdown since Nov. 25, 2007 against Stanford. He also scampered 11 yards for a first down in the third quarter, tying for the longest rush of his career.
Clausen has now registered five multi-touchdown games in 2009 and 15th of his career.
Clausen moved past Rick Mirer (1989-92) into fourth place on the all-time Notre Dame career passing yards list.
Clausen moved past Steve Beuerlein (1983-86) into third place on the all-time Irish career completions list.
Tate recorded his first kickoff return of the season on the opening kick of the second half. He returned it 24 yards. Tate totaled 62 yards on three kick returns on the day, moving him past Allen Rossum (1994-97) into eight place on the Notre Dame career list for kickoff return yards with 909.
Tate hooked up with junior QB Jimmy Clausen for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 5:18 to go in the third quarter to cut the USC lead to 20-14.
The touchdown reception was Tate's fifth of the season and the 16th of his career.
The 100-yard receiving game is Tate's fourth of the season and the 10th of his career. He is now alone in second place on Notre Dame's all-time 100-yard receiving games list.
Completed his first career pass on a critical fake field goal conversion that led to an Irish touchdown. With Notre Dame lined up for a 44-yard field goal, Maust, the Irish holder, took the snap and fired a fastball to a wide open senior WR Robby Parris along the Irish sideline. Parris raced 25 yards down to the USC two-yard line. Junior RB Robert Hughes scored a touchdown one play later.
The 25-yard completion by Maust was the longest by an Irish player without previous quarterback experience since David Givens had a 29-yard pass completion to Javin Hunter at Boston College on Oct. 27, 2001.