The 1978 USC-Notre Dame game is remembered for a field goal.
But so much more happened. USC led 24-6 with 14 minutes left and then almost had a reverse repeat of the 1974 classic vs. the Irish.
Joe Montana threw a 57-yard TD pass to Kris Haines with 13:26 left. Then Pete Buchanan scored on a 1-yard TD with 3:01 remaining. With 46 seconds left, Montana hit Pete Holohan on a 2-yard TD pass and No. 8-ranked Notre Dame led No. 3-ranked USC, 25-24.
“I don’t know if there were many believers after Notre Dame scored,” John Robinson said. “Except for the guys in the red jerseys.”
With 40 seconds left, Paul McDonald threw a 10-yard pass to Vik Rakhshani (in motion). On the next play, controversy erupted as McDonald was hit and fumbled. Notre Dame recovered but the officials said it was an incomplete pass.
“If it was a bad decision then that was the ball game,” Notre Dame coach Dan Devine said.
With 19 seconds left, McDonald completed a 35-yard pass to Calvin Sweeney. Charles White then took a handoff and ran to the middle of the field to set up a field goal.
With six seconds left, Frank Jordan kicked a 37-yard FG and was mobbed by his teammates. Jordan was the hero but he could have easily been the goat before the kick because he missed an extra point and 20-yard FG.
“I was looking to redeem myself,” Jordan said. “I was more nervous for the offense to get the ball downfield than I was kicking it.”
Montana also had a big mistake, fumbling on the USC 1-yard line. Herb Ward recovered the loose ball. Charles White gained 205 yards in 35 carries.
Marv Goux embraced many USC players by placing their heads in his hands and congratulating them
“It’s the greatest football game I’ve ever seen, but maybe every USC-Notre Dame is,” USC coach John Robinson said.
The field goal preserved USC’s chances for a national title, which the Trojans shared that season.