The day was unseasonably cool, but the sun had finally come out, warming the air just enough so I could mow the lawn. I threw on my favorite pair of ratty old jeans, a long-sleeve shirt, and then I saw it hanging in my closet—the crimson tee with the gold block lettering. My wife was in Chicago for a girl’s weekend, the kids were on the couch in the middle of a Spongebob Squarepants marathon, so I figured I could get away with wearing the t-shirt for at least a few hours.
I grabbed my aluminum travel mug of coffee off the kitchen counter, started to head out the door. That’s when my 11-year-old daughter decided to get up and make herself some hot chocolate.
“What’s your shirt say, Daddy?” she asked, pointing at the gold letters on my chest.
“Oh, those are just initials,” I said.
“What do they stand for?”
“W-well…” I stuttered. “They stand for, uh, Florida University.”
“Florida University?” she said, puzzled. “But that’s only the first two letters.”
“I know that,” I said, practically smitten with my own subterfuge. “It’s Florida University-South Coast.”
“Oh,” my daughter said.
Question: when and how did you start gearing up for USC week? Because my USC week started by mowing the lawn on the Lord’s Day while listening to the “Rudy” soundtrack on my iPod and wearing an “FUSC” shirt.
What’s my take on the ND-USC matchup? Frankly, I thought a healthy Michael Floyd gave Notre Dame a puncher’s chance, but without Floyd we don’t have a prayer. The Trojans during the Carroll Era have been utterly dominant. Since 2002 they have won at least 11 games every season. This run has included two national championships, three Heisman trophies, 53 NFL draft picks and 14 first-round picks. By comparison, in this same period Notre Dame has never finished the season ranked in the Top 10, has compiled a 1-5 bowl record, has had 35 players selected in the NFL draft and a grand total of two first-round picks. The last time ND beat USC—Bob Davie’s 27-16 defeat in 2001 of Carroll’s very first Trojans squad—still stands as Carroll’s largest margin of defeat as USC head coach. In fact, USC has never lost by more than a touchdown since that game. If you look at the gamut of USC’s 90-11 record since 2002, with but a few “Bush-push” exceptions, opponents either get killed or get lucky when they play the Trojans.
I expect Notre Dame will lose by two touchdowns.
In December of 1930, the USC Trojans were being hailed as “The Wonder Boys,” the best team America had ever seen. In their previous three games versus ranked opponents, they had won by a combined score of 156-0. Conversely, “Rockne’s Ramblers” were heralded as overrated. Though defending national champions and riding an 18-game winning streak, Notre Dame had won two tight, physically exhausting games versus Army and Northwestern. Injuries had depleted their backfield. ND was so beat down Coach Rockne said a week before the USC game, “We’re not giving up the ship, but we’re prepared to man the lifeboats.” When pushed by reporters to make a prediction on the game’s outcome, Rockne said, “I expect we will lose by two touchdowns.”
At the last practice before the game, Rockne had Line Coach Hunk Andersen read aloud a wire service news story about Tom Lieb, a former Notre Dame assistant who had recently moved to California. A 1930s incarnation of Bob Davie, Lieb was popular and admired by the team—a “player’s coach.” Per Rockne’s secret request, Lieb ridiculed ND in the story, calling them fat, injured, slow, worn down and totally incapable of beating the Trojans. Later that evening, Rockne graciously agreed to address the USC faithful at their pep rally. “It will be no disgrace to lose to a team with such spirit,” Rockne announced to the tens of thousands assembled. “I have warned my boys against over-ambition. There is room at the top for only one great team.”
The very next day, The Wonder Boys lost to Rockne’s Ramblers 27-0. It would be the exclamation point on Rock’s last national championship. His last game. Less than four months later, while en route to participate in the production of the film The Spirit of Notre Dame, Knute Kenneth Rockne was killed when his plane crashed into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas. President Herbert Hoover called Rockne’s death “a national loss.”
Coach Rockne once said, “The secret of winning football is this: work more as a team, less as individuals. I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.”
Come Saturday, I guarantee Notre Dame will not have the eleven best players on the field. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll have the best eleven.
GO FLORIDA UNIVERSITY-SOUTH COAST!