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Trojans blow out Irish for second straight year

Andrew Soukup | Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Notre Dame players said they were determined to avenge a 31-point loss to USC a year ago that knocked them out of BCS contention.

Another 31-point loss 10 days ago wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.

Keyed by an explosive offense that generated 551 yards of offense, the Trojans blew out the Irish for the second straight year, winning 45-14 Oct. 18.

“We had great respect for their offense,” said head coach Tyrone Willingham, whose team gave up 610 yards of offense to the Trojans a year ago. “But I don’t think I anticipated that they would be able to perform in that manner.”

The two teams essentially picked up where they left off a year ago, with USC’s high-powered offense moving at will against a beleaguered Irish defense. The Trojans drove 80 yards on their first three touchdowns of the game and never looked back.

In fact, the only difference between the 2002 game and the 2003 game was that the Irish offense managed to move the ball effectively. After USC wide receiver Keary Colbert caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Leinart, Julius Jones capped a 10-play, 73-yard drive – the longest Notre Dame touchdown drive of the year – with a 22-yard touchdown run.

Then, after Reggie Bush ran 58 yards for USC’s second touchdown, Anthony Fasano caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Brady Quinn to tie the score at 14.

After that, though, it was all USC. The Trojans shut down the Irish offense the rest of the way, and USC offense, led by Leinart’s 351-yard passing day, exploded.

“We just broke down,” Jones said. “We were playing good the first couple of drives, after that, we fell apart.”

Willingham thought that the Irish, as they did in Los Angeles last year, looked tentative. They missed tackles, missed open receivers, missed blocks and missed a chance to avenge last year’s embarrassing loss. But as to why the Irish played so lackluster, Willingham had no answer. “If I knew, we would have solved that before the final second ticked off,” he said.

The Irish offense, which only recorded 109 yards a year ago, managed 279 yards in the 2003 meeting. It wasn’t enough, though, as the Irish season continued to spiral downward.

“We’re not,” Willingham said, “anywhere near where I hoped or expected for us to be.”