The story goes that back in 1926, the Notre Dame USC series started as a result of both school’s desire to add to their schedules a “national” opponent and Mrs. Knute Rockne’s desire to enjoy sunny Southern California weather every 2 years. The idea was hatched during a discussion Mrs. Rockne had with the wife of the USC athletic director during a late season visit to not so sunny Nebraska the season prior.
And the rest is history.
The Game has been played continuously since with two exceptions. Last season’s game was a COVID casualty and World War II stopped the series from 1943-45.
In 1927 a record 120,000 fans showed up at Chicago’s Soldier Field to watch the Irish defeat the Trojans 7-6.
From 1929-1932 the two powerhouse teams combined for 4 straight national titles.
During the 1960s John Huarte, Mike Garrett and OJ all won the Heisman trophy and the national championship was won or denied by the game’s outcome 5 times.
In 1972 Anthony Davis ran wild for 6 touchdowns and then in 1973 on the game’s first play freshman Luther Bradley knocked Lynn Swann’s helmet off and later Eric Penick went 85 yards for a score.
In 1977 the Irish stormed the field with a Trojan Horse and wearing green Jerseys for the first time since the 50’s and scored a victory as they advanced to a national title.
In 1986 the Era of Lou had just begun and Notre Dame came from behind to win on John Carney’s last second field goal. A game date I will never forget because it happens to have been the day I got married!
In 1988 it was #1 vs #2 in the Coliseum and Ricky Watters and Tony Brooks were sent home. But Tony Rice, The Rocket and the “3 Amigos” would not be denied, as they led the Irish to victory.
In 1989 a brawl between the teams broke out in the tunnel before the game and in 2005 USC, helped by a “Bush Push”, came from behind and Charlie Weis had his signature…. loss!
Lou Holtz never lost to the Trojans, Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis never beat the Trojans. And Brian Kelly has won 7 out of 10 USC match-ups, including the last 3.
ND- USC games account for five of the ten most-watched college football games in television history. And Notre Dame and USC have combined for the most national titles, Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans, College and NFL Hall of famers and players taken in the NFL Draft of any collegiate football rivalry series.
This week all that history adds one more chapter as one of the greatest of all college football rivalries is back.