SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- USC found the cure to its struggles:
The Trojans (No. 14 BCS, No. 13 AP), hampered by injuries, struggled three
straight games against Pac-10 opponents, including a stunning loss
to Stanford. They got back some of their injured players Saturday
against the Fighting Irish and looked like the team that began the
season ranked No. 1, beating Notre Dame 38-0.
"We've been pretty well banged up, got shocked a few weeks
back, and it was really important for us to gain our stride," USC
coach Pete Carroll said. "We felt coming into this week we were
Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes, two on short drives
after Irish miscues, to pace the Trojans to their largest margin of
victory in the 79-game history of the storied rivalry.
"It's a butt kicking today," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis
Notre Dame can still claim the most-lopsided victory in the
series, a 51-0 win over the Trojans in 1966. That's surely little
consolation to the Irish and their fans, as Notre Dame trudges
through a horrible season.
"You see where they are; you see where we are," Weis said.
"We're at different ends of the spectrum at this point."
The Irish are at the wrong end compared to a lot of teams. They
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.
It was the worst Irish home loss, though, since they were beaten
40-0 by top-ranked Oklahoma in 1956.
When asked if he believes the Irish have hit rock bottom, Weis
chose his words carefully.
"I'm going to answer that very cautiously, because I don't want
to be called sarcastic using New Jersey rhetoric," he said. "So
let me just say people better enjoy it now, have their fun now."
The Trojans certainly did.
Making his second start for the injured John David Booty,
Sanchez got off to a shaky start as he had to call timeout twice
during the first four plays because of confusion.
It's all about the finish, though, and in the end he was
21-of-38 for 235 yards and four TDs, with no interceptions or
"I felt real comfortable and calm," Sanchez said. "I got the
jitters out last week. I felt like I could just go and play. The
team was behind me and the defense did an unbelievable job."
USC (6-1) won its sixth straight over the Irish, the longest
streak for USC against Notre Dame. The Irish won 11 straight from
The Irish dropped to 1-7 for just the second time, matching the
1960 start. They are also assured of their 13th losing season since
they started playing football in 1887, and the fourth losing season
since 1999. The fourth consecutive home loss, tied a school record.
"Unfortunately, it got out of hand and we just didn't make any
plays," said Evan Sharpley, who made his first start at
Sharpley, starting ahead of Jimmy Clausen was sacked five times,
and was 17-of-33 for 117 yards.
The game was competitive for a while. The Trojans didn't go
ahead 14-0 until Allen Bradford caught an 8-yard TD pass with 3:55
left in the second quarter. Then the Trojans quickly turned it into
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.
Notre Dame was held to 48 rushing yards on 30 carries, although
those stats were slightly skewed because of the five sacks. The
Irish have now given up a school record 39 sacks, one more than in
2002, and still have four games left to play.
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.
"We feel like we're regaining our momentum again," Carroll
said. "We got whacked pretty good there for a while, and
unfortunately we had to give up a game during the process. Now that
we're back on track, this could be very pivotal for us."