Oct. 20, 2007
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes – two on short drives after miscues by the Fighting Irish – and No. 13 USC beat the Fighting Irish 38-0 Saturday, the largest margin of victory for the Trojans’ in the 79-game history of the stories rivalry.
Notre Dame can still claim the most-lopsided victory in the history of the series, a 51-0 win over the Trojans in 1966.
The Irish also lost 38-0 to Michigan earlier this season. The two 38-point losses are tied for the eighth worst losses in Notre Dame history.
Sanchez threw TD passes of 10, 8, 5 and 48 yards and the Trojans won their sixth straight over the Irish, the longest streak for USC against Notre Dame. The Irish won 11 straight from 1983-93.
USC (6-1), coming off three lackluster games – including a stunning 24-23 loss to Stanford – started slowly, but got rolling when a punt by Notre Dame’s Geoff Price struck teammate Munir Prince and USC’s Vincent Joseph recovered at the Irish 10. The Trojans scored on the next play on a pass from Sanchez to Fred Davis.
The loss ensures Notre Dame its 13th losing season since it started playing football in 1887, and its fourth losing season since 1999. It also is the fourth straight home loss, tying a school record.
The game was competitive for a while. The Trojans, who got back many players who had been out with injuries, didn’t go ahead 14-0 until Allen Bradford caught an 8-yard TD pass with 3:55 left in the second quarter. The Trojans went ahead 17-0 with 11 seconds left in the half on a 30-yard field goal by David Buehler.
USC quickly turned it into a blowout in the second half after Travis Thomas fumbled on the Notre Dame 13. Sanchez threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Stanley Havili.
Vidal Hazelton scored a 48-yard touchdown, catching the pass from Sanchez at the 30-yard line and breaking three tackles en route to the end zone. Joe McKnight scored on a 51-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The game was a stark contrast to the classic two years ago when top-ranked USC beat ninth-ranked Notre Dame 34-31 in the closing seconds as the teams traded great plays in the final minutes.
The closest Notre Dame came to scoring came in the second quarter when David Bruton caught the ball off Woidneck’s foot at the USC 29. The Irish managed only 6 yards on the drive and Brandon Walker’s 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Clay Matthews.
The Irish were held to 48 yards rushing on 30 carries, although those stats were slightly skewed because Evan Sharpley was sacked five times for a loss of 36 yards. The Irish have now given up a school record 39 sacks — one more than in 2002 — and still have four games left to play.
Sanchez, making his second start for the injured John David Booty, got off to a bit of a shaky start as he had to call timeout twice during the first four plays because of confusion. But he showed his calm even when things didn’t go well and was 21-of-38 passing for 235 yards with no interceptions or sacks.
Sharpley, making his first start in place of freshman Jimmy Clausen, was 17-of-33 passing for 117 yards.
USC had 462 yards total offense compared with 165 yards for Notre Dame. The Trojans, who have been struggling with injuries, got back several key players who had missed time, including tailback Stafon Johnson, who rushed for 47 yards on eight carries.
The Irish wore green jerseys and yellow pants that were replicas of what the 1977 wore when 11th-ranked Notre Dame, with Charlie Weis in the stands as a college senior, warmed up in blue then came out for the game in the brightly colored garb and upset No. 5 USC 49-19. The Irish continued to wear the uniforms the rest of the season en route to winning the national championship.
The Trojans still trail in the series 32-42-5.