USC denies Notre Dame of a storybook ending
When the final second ticked from the clock, a defeated Notre Dame football team prepped for the long disappointing walk to the locker room. Staring towards the opposing sideline, they viewed the ensuing celebration by their longtime rivals, and felt the effects of another year of failure. But as if it were scripted in a fairytale, their steps were halted and chinstraps refastened. The Irish were given one final second, one chance for redemption, and one more beat in their hearts.
Jimmy Clausen had led three of these comebacks this year, and appeared poised for another. One second, four yards, needing just one touchdown to pull his team even. It was karma, with Charlie Weis peering into the same end zone, where four years earlier he watched Matt Leinart plow across the line for victory, On Saturday, it was his team, his quarterback, and a reset of the clock in his favor.
Clausen took the snap, looked to his left, and fired. But there was no luck for the Irish on this day, and no storybook ending of “happily ever after”. The ball flew between defenders, eventually settling harmlessly on the end zone turf. The Trojans burst into a second celebration, as if it were a second victory in a single game, in a span of only four seconds. In an event as common as season’s change, Notre Dame lost again to USC.
BEHIND THE 8-BALL
The 34-27 USC victory marked the eighth consecutive in the series, pushing the Trojans into a tie with Michigan and Michigan State for the longest win streaks against Notre Dame all time. Two Southern California graduating classes will leave campus without ever facing a defeat by their intersectional rival.
Though the seven-point margin of victory is the closest in 4 years, USC has scored thirty or more points in each game since the streak began. They’ve done it with 5 different quarterbacks leading the offense, and 4 different coordinators calling plays.
If there is a moral victory for Notre Dame, the fake field goal to set up an eventual 2-yard scoring run by Robert Hughes snapped a streak of eight quarters without a touchdown against USC. Jimmy Clausen’s 45 yard toss to Golden Tate in the third quarter was the first touchdown pass surrender by the Trojans defense this season.
Charlie Weis is now 0-5 against Pete Carroll and USC. With a manageable schedule the rest of the way, the Irish are still in contention for a BCS bowl game. But Weis has been in this position before, and the question remains whether or not the hotseat coach can keep his job with BCS qualification without a victory over USC.
Notre Dame is staring at the loss of Golden Tate in 2010, and the possibility of losing Jimmy Clausen along with him. It would lead to the rebuilding of another offense, after watching for years one that underachieved. There is no certainty that Weis will be leading the program in the future, but the Trojans have pushed the door half closed, forcing the coach to win out the remainder of his schedule or have it slammed shut.