Los Angeles, CA (UHND.com) – USC scored touchdowns in its first three possessions to jump out to a 21-3 lead in the first half and never really looked back in beating the 5th ranked Irish for the fifth straight season with a 44-24 victory.
Notre Dame completed a 39 yard pass on the first play from scrimmage, but ended up turning the ball over on downs when Brady Quinn missed a wide open Rhema McKnight on what would have been a touchdown on fourth down. USC would take over and mark down the field with an eight play, 71 yard drive.
John David Booty connected with Dwayne Jarrett for the first of three touchdown passes from nine yards out to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead mid way through the first quarter. Booty finished 17 of 28 for 265 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Jarrett, who caught seven passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns, would add his second score of the game on USC’s second possession. The Trojans were given a short field when Desmond Reed turned a Geoff Price punt 43 yards to the Notre Dame 26 yard line.
Notre Dame got on the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter with a 27 yard field goal by Carl Gioia, but the three points did little to put the Irish back in the game after USC responded with their third touchdown this time on a Booty quarterback sneak.
Down 21-3, Notre Dame was in position to cut into the USC lead with a first and goal opportunity, but a Darius Walker fumble killed the Irish drive and any momentum that they had built on the seven play 71 yard drive.
USC was unable to do anything with the Notre Dame fumble, however, and four plays later, the Steven Quinn would block a USC punt to set up Notre Dame’s first touchdown – a seven yard pass from Brady Quinn to Marcus Freeman to cut the lead to 21-10.
On the game Quinn completed 22 of 45 for 274 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions while suffering from numerous dropped passes.
In the second quarter USC gave the Irish plenty of chances to cut into the lead after the blocked punt with a couple of John David Booty interceptions. The Irish, however, were unable to capitalize on the Trojan miscues while failing to convert two fourth down conversions in USC territory.
Notre Dame’s fortunes would not change much in the second half with USC coming out of the locker room and marching downfield with a 10 play 65 yard touchdown drive that ended with a Chauncey Washington two yard run.
The Irish would cut into the USC lead once again at the end of the third quarter with a Rhema McKnight two yard touchdown pass from Quinn on a fourth and goal, but USC pulled away for good in the fourth quarter with Jarrett’s third touchdown, this time from 43 yards out.
Notre Dame would add a late touchdown from Quinn to Samardzija, but the ensuing onside kick bounced directly to Brian Cushing who raced 42 yards into the end zone to cap the scoring at 44-24.
Despite the 20 point loss, USC and Notre Dame both gained 404 yards of offense and nearly split the time of possession battle down the middle. USC, however, converted 5 of 11 third downs to Notre Dame’s seven of 18. The Trojans were also a perfect two for two on fourth down while the Irish converted only two of six of their fourth downs.
The loss ends Notre Dame’s eight game winning streak while the Irish fall to 10-2. Despite the 20 pint loss, Notre Dame will very likely end up in a BCS Bowl again this year with the Rose of Sugar Bowls being a likely destination.