If It’s Friday, It’s Time For A USC Notes Column

If you want to understand what this two-week gauntlet is like for USC, John McKay put things in perspective: “There is nothing worse than losing to UCLA and nothing better than beating Notre Dame.”

We’ve got so much history, it’s time to get started.

  • Here is the Holy Grail of USC-Notre Dame photos and some new information I learned this week.

Can any rivalry boast anything close to having Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig wearing their football uniforms?

This was an annual All-American dinner held at the Palmer House in Chicago on November 25, 1927, the night before the first Notre Dame-USC game to be held at Soldier Field. The dinner was thrown by Christy Walsh, who was known as the first baseball agent.

Ruth and Gehrig performed a skit at the start of the dinner with Ruth impersonating a Notre Dame player while Gehrig was a USC player.

Left to right: Glenn “Pop” Warner, Stanford football coach, Babe Ruth (in the “ND” shirt), Knute Rockne, Notre Dame football coach, Christy Walsh (the sports agent of Ruth, Rockne, and Gehrig), Lou Gehrig (in the “SC” shirt), USC football coach Howard Jones and his brother, Yale football coach Tad Jones. A banner reading “Stanford” is laying across the table.

How big was this game? A crowd estimated at 123,000 attended. Here are Ruth and Gehrig watching the game but more interesting are the young kids in leather helmets.

  • Here’s what I learned this week: Also in attendance was Los Angeles mayor George E. Cryer. And Chicago mayor Big Bill Thomson issued a proclamation encouraging residents to decorate their houses with the United State flag and the colors of USC and Notre Dame.

The game drew the largest crowd ever for a college football game but it is not considered a record because the attendance figure was unofficial.

Let’s look at some other famous and not-so-famous games in the rivalry.

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1964

  • This famous picture of Irish coach Ara Parseghian above is from the 1964 game, when USC took a 20-17 lead with 1:33 left after Notre Dame led, 17-0.

“I studied the Notre Dame-Stanford film for six hours last night and I have reached one conclusion: Notre Dame can’t be beaten,” John McKay said the Monday before the game. In a strange incident largely forgotten, USC linebacker Ernie Pye walked through a plate-glass window at the team hotel dining room, cut his heel and missed the game.

“O.K., fellows. Ernie’s given us the idea for today,” McKay said. “We’ve got to crash their glass.”

Here’s the famous play that provided the winning points as USC upset No. 1-ranked Notre Dame, 20-17, in 1964 at the Coliseum.

Notre Dame led 17-0 and 17-7 entering the fourth quarter. The game-winning pass came on fourth down and 8 as Craig Fertig found Rod Sherman for the touchdown catch.

  • The celebration was muted later that night when USC found out the faculty representatives of the Athletic Association of Western Universities voted for co-champion Oregon State to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl.

USC was 7-3. Oregon State was 8-2. The USC argument was it played a tougher schedule. The Trojans defeated then-No. 2 Oklahoma, lost to then-No. 2 Ohio State and beat No. 1 Notre Dame.

The Beavers had beaten then-No. 8 Syracuse and No. 10 Oregon.

“So far as I am concerned, this is one of the rankest injustices ever perpetrated in the field of intercollegiate athletics,” USC athletic director Jess Hill said.

  • Parseghian felt better two years later in 1966, when Notre Dame won, 51-0. After the game, John McKay told his players “Take a shower, if you need one.”

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1959

  • Notre Dame QB George lzo (3) checks USC defense of Marv Marinovich (70), Ken Coones (66), Dan Ficca (78), Ben Rosin (81), Clark Holden (43), Glenn Wilder (87), Britt Williams ( 64), and Jack Trier (55). From a news account: “lzo was superb in his last collegiate appearance passing and running the Irish to a hard-fought 16-6 victory.”

This game was on Nov. 28, 1959, and played in South Bend. Imagine that today.

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1931

  • A 16-14 USC victory in the last minute snapped Notre Dame’s 26-game unbeaten streak. More than 300,000 attended a ticker-tape parade in Los Angeles to celebrate the Trojans’ victory when they arrived by train. USC won the national championship that season.

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1974

You all know this story. USC trailed 24-0 and came back to win, 55-24.

What might not be as well remembered today:

  • USC scored 28 points in the first 9 minutes, 23 seconds of the third quarter. In just under 17 minutes, USC scored eight touchdowns and 55 points.
  • Safety Charles Phillips had three interceptions. He also did it with a toothpick in his mouth. I always have to mention Phillips played with a toothpick in his mouth.
  • Ohio State coach Woody Hayes did color commentary for ABC. His team was already slated to play USC on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl. After the eighth touchdown, the USC rooting section chanted, “Woody, you’re next!”
  • USC fell just four points short of the most ever scored against the Irish (a Doc Blanchard-Glenn Davis Army team scored 59 in 1944).
  • At halftime, John McKay reminded the Trojans that they overcame a 17-0 deficit exactly 10 years eariler. “I said if we could score the first time we had the ball — which I said in 1964, too — I thought we would win…. We agreed at halftime that there is no NCAA rule against blocking on a kickoff.”

Anthony Davis returned the kickoff 102 yards for a TD with a key block from . . . Ricky Bell.

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1996

Even though USC entered the game with a 5-6 record, this was one of the Trojans’ biggest victories in the series. Notre Dame had won 12 of the previous 13 games in the series (there was a tie in 1994) so USC had not actually beaten Notre Dame since 1982.

It didn’t look great in the fourth quarter when the Irish took a 20-12 lead. But USC responded with an eight-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with Delon Washington scoring on a 15-yard run with 1:50 left. Washington then courageously ran in the 2-point conversion.

USC took a 27-20 lead in OT on a 5-yard pass from Brad Otton to Rodney Sermons. The hero of the game was linebacker Mark Cusano, who batted down Ron Powlus’ fourth-down pass to preserve the victory.

It was Lou Holtz’s last game at Notre Dame and first loss to USC.

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1930

  • This is a headline that needs explaining on the eve of the 1930 USC-Notre Dame game.

Knute Rockne kicked his star running back, Jumping Joe Savoldi, off the team after divorce papers had been filed and discovered by reporters.

It was against Notre Dame rules to be married, let alone be married and divorced. Not even Rockne could keep him on the team.

It didn’t affect the game as Notre Dame defeated USC, 27-0, and the 10-0 Irish were awarded the national championship as it returned to South Bend by train.

After the team returned to Chicago, a ticket-tape parade was held (pictured above).

That victory over USC turned out to be Rockne’s final game. Three months later, he was killed in a plane crash.

USC vs. Notre Dame, 1991

  • Marvin Pollard was involved in an infamous onside kick in the 1991 USC-Notre Dame game. The Trojans scored to cut the Irish’s lead to 24-20 with 1:50 remaining.

USC then tried an onside kick. The ball hit a Notre Dame player then the ground and Pollard fell on it. A game official signaled USC recovered. But then another official came over and ruled Notre Dame’s Irv Smith recovered the ball. USC coach Larry Smith came on the field to protest and the Trojans received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

USC was already angry because Notre Dame scored a TD even though Tony Brooks fumbled before crossing the goal line.

“You hear all this talk about the luck of the Irish,” Pollard said. “It makes you wonder.”

  • On Nov. 28, 1958, USC held a “men’s football dinner” at Town and Gown.

This was the night before the USC-Notre Dame game at the Coliseum. That fact did not stop USC coach Don Clark from attending. Notre Dame sent athletic director Moose Krause and Father John Wilson, who was assistant to school president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh.

It gets better. UCLA athletic director Wilbur Johns and football coach Bill Barnes were in attendance.

There was also entertainment as ventriloquist Edgar Bergen came with his sidekicks, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Singer Sue Raney was also part of the program. Twenty years later, Raney sang the national anthem at Dodger Stadium before Game 6 of the 1978 World Series.

USC also had athetic director Jess Hill, president Norman Topping and chancellor Rufus von KleinSmid at the dinner and the fathers of the USC players were introduced.

The emcee? It was Chick Hearn, who did USC football and basketball games from 1956-61 before becoming a Lakers legend.

A few weeks later, some of the same people had to do it all again for the USC football banquet.

Chick Hearn (far right) hosts the “men’s football dinner” at USC in 1958.

  • This 1960 photo shows the preparation for what is believed to be the first USC basketball card stunt.


King Kong director Merian C. Cooper on the RKO Studios Lot staring up at a bust of the legendary ape.

This photo is believed to be from March, 1933, and RKO took this version of King Kong to the film’s premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood where he resided in the theatre’s lobby. Several weeks later, Kong went to the Fox Theatre in Pomona when the film moved there.


71 thoughts on “If It’s Friday, It’s Time For A USC Notes Column

    1. 1930 tickertape parade in Chicago for ND winning the Title and 1931 SC gets the same treatment only in Los Angeles as 300,000 Angelenos attended. And this was during the early years of the Great Depression so maybe folks back then needed an entertainment outlet to forget their serious troubles for a couple of days at least

      The mention of Town and Gown brought back memories of my first year’s stay on the SC campus and how the school’s very grounds seemed hallowed and pulsating with excitement for the Trojan football team as conscription to Viet Nam was not yet a threat

      1996 the 13-game winless streak is finally broken but sucla’s 8-game streak would continue on until snapped in 1999, dark years for Trojan football but a prelude to better days ahead with the arrival in 2001 of a fired NFL coach

      Liked by 5 people

      1. …I was on the sidelines for that 1982 victory versus ND.
        JR had announced his “retirement” from HC at USC after a tough loss to UCLA the prior Saturday (First ever USC-UCLA game played at the RB), and the team played “like they were on fire.” Our defense in 1982 was stout, with several present/future All-Americans, SuperBowl winners, All-Pros, and NFL Rookies of the year (Joey Browner, then JDR, then Duane Bickett). Sr. Jeff Simmons broke game, season, and possibly career records for receptions in the game (14 catches versus ND, 55 for the season, over 100 receps for career). Scott Tinsley was legendary in his final game as a Trojan. Final game for Bruce Mathews and for Donnie Mosebar. ND coach Gerry Faust–who was on the hotseat already–came into our locker room to congratulate the Trojans and outgoing coach JR. Class act.

        ….little did I know that it would be 13 years before we would beat ND again.

        Liked by 4 people

  1. This weeks game has the potential to be historic in that it could be called the stepping stone to a USC natty, and the genuine beginning of a USC championship dynasty. This game is so important to USC in so many ways.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Looks like Scott fully appreciates the significance of this game, steveg. He certainly has set the table!
      P. S.
      If A.D. Jess Hill thought that sending Oregon to the Rose Bowl over USC was the greatest crime in world history I hate to think of what he’d say ’bout the NCAA stripping USC of a National Title and killing 30 scholarships.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I honestly believe that Hill would throw up.
        #[Btw, Pat’s famous touchy/feely, jacksy/offsky statement about “winning the right way in the future” was an implicit admission that USC was guilty of everything the bullshit NCAA accused us of]…..

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Same impact as the 2003 23-0 win over Auburn…….It started a 37-1 run until the heartbreaker against Texas. Has any modern-day team gone on a 37 out of 38 run? Will it ever be duplicated?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hi john,u thinck this so-calld ryevullree is moar imporetint then the wun with frezznow stait,cuz we aint gunna win the uhsteamed tital of cal-luhfornya champeeuns if we’s win tuhmarow like we’s wud do if we’s beet them cal-luhfornya teems,thanx a lot

    Liked by 4 people

    1. True. A lot of so called “fans” missed that point, Ed.
      Riley took his eyes off the California Title [which Helton won a record 3 times] while pursuing the practically worthless National Title…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ed ‘n me agree their is nuthin bettur than readin John’s fridee notes whyle eatin’ missus Lincoln’s brekfust cassroul. owns is servin us brekfest this week aftur owns lost his bet to Ed. I got no ideea why he wuld bet aginst Ed, smdh over that. Owns, Ed needs anuthur expresso, on the dubl little fella.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. aint shur that iz the reel missus ed cuz she cant tipe to good cuz the tirky byte hir fingurz yestirda wen i wuz givvin hir the burd,smdh

        Liked by 2 people

  4. “You all know this story. USC trailed 24-0 and came back to win, 55-24.”

    That game was one in a million. Anthony Davis would have won the Heisman if most of the ballots hadn’t already been submitted before the game.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Tebow seems to have disappeared after saying “You fanboys can’t take the truth! ucla will score over 60! The ladies of troy will lose by 30! LMFAO!”


        Liked by 3 people

  5. One of your best, Wolfman! Any pics of the pissed off UCLA students when the wreath of withered roses appeared at Royce Hall after USC was given the Rose Bowl nod despite losing to UCLA in 1966? (asks a proud Trojan Hall contributor to the flower arrangement fund)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha!
      A belated ‘thank you’, Rushmore…..

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A lot going on with SC football beginning with Neuter Dame who
    old-timer SC coach John McKay wisely exclaimed, “There is nothing better than beating Notre Dame,” mirroring my sentiments as it has always been for me about beating Notre Dame, spelled correctly out of solemn respect for the Fighting Irish, respect won by every SC-ND game I ever attended was never an easy ‘out’ for either side.
    AND, drumroll please, since the 1960s all 7 SC National Title teams had to go through Notre Dame same as tomorrow

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As McKay told his 1974 team at halftime …”We’re gonna need some big plays—somebody’s got to step up and do something big.”
      P. S.
      This game is gonna be about line play –we have to get through Notre Dame’s [first rate] O-Line and sack their relatively immobile QB —and we have to protect Caleb from their [first rate] D-Line….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Poor Ara looked worse on the 1974 sidelines than in 1964….


      2. Riley and Grinch need to dial up some devilish plays to blunt Notre Dame’s ace in the hole: Devine intervention. The Coliseum is a fitting venue.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. We got some of our own Divine Intervention going….


  7. Speaking of Notre Dame here comes another Tight End Neanderthal readying to pull out all the stops with Trojans, so to speak
    Good thing they didn’t have the Heisman vote after that Utah guy finished slaying Trojans, and now here comes an even better Tight End named Mayer, an Irishman I would not want to meet in a dark alley unless armed with a machine gun.
    But no worries, SC defensive guru Grinch has devised a plan to stop Mayer which is “to tackle him when he gets the ball,” while hoping this does not involve 20-tackles throughout the game

    Seriously and dangerously SC has another boogeyman to confront in this head guy Boo Corrigan at ‘Final-4’ CFP when hinting that he pushed for 2-Loss LSU ahead of 1-Loss SC because we need “to see a little bit more” from the Trojan defense. This is alarming, we now are judging football winners by ‘style points,’ and whatever happened to the notion that a win is a win no matter how ugly in its attainment, so a 1-Loss belongs ahead of a 2-Loss, although this debate will probably be moot after LSU-Georgia

    When confronted with all the negative SC defense analysis Grinch grimly explained that “we gotta play at a much higher level,” knowing full well his troop was already playing as hard as they could

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Grinch knows the only weapon he’s got comes in the form of takeaways—we need a couple on Saturday…
      btw, I think we’ll get more 3rd down stops than usual due to the relative immobility of Notre Dame’s QB….not a lot more… but more than usual…


  8. Game plan for ND similar to game plan versus Utah and versus UCLA.
    All three teams love to run the rock and control the clock…keeps Caleb off the grass. We won 2 of 3 with the same game plan, and almost won the third.

    Make the QB beat USC with his arm/WR.
    Utah WR–not so much.
    UCLA WR–not so much.
    ND WR–not so much.

    All three have really good TE’s, and Mr. Mayer will have a big game.
    Will be tough to watch, but need to keep ND to under 200yards running and get some 3 and outs or 5 and outs. Maybe get a stop in the Red zone.

    ND is a good defense, but the computer I follow ranks Utah D after 10 games better than ND defense. Hopefully Addison is 100%, Raleek gets a few swing passes (and no run attempts. they’ll stuff him). Hopefully Jones and Barlow gain 150 yards and Caleb gets a few scampers.
    Their D wants to stay in their lanes and prevent the scamper.

    USC wins 31 to 28 and it might be a Blanton’s night.
    I’ll miss you folks tomorrow during the day.
    Fight On!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good call, Bourbon. It will be a wasted down if Raleek is asked to break through Notre Dame’s line. [btw, I’d love to know why Raleek gets the ball more than Barlow].
      Biggest point: Notre Dame’s defense isn’t any tougher than Utah’s [or probably Oregon State’s] ….AND… our offense will be able to hear the signals at the coli!
      P. S.
      Hope our friend Cal 75 is doing well! He’s a standup guy!


  9. Feel Good Department–

    We all have a varied myriad cache of sports opinions but I like to hear from the source as the SC team was interviewed this week–
    Michael Jackson, not the Michael Jackson, discussed how the
    turn-around from 2021 was due to “comaraderie” and Wiley’s
    razor-sharp focus on winning, commenting “Just coming off a low last year, we’re not getting too big-headed, we’re not too full of ourselves,” which translates to a Trojan team you can proudly get behind

    And as for ground-level ‘Celeb’ sightings Jackson added, “We knew before the season started, he was that guy,” whereas fine Trojan guard Vorhees summed it up, “An incredible football player, just Superman out there sometimes”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I was thinking about the green jersey game in the late 70s. I don’t care what they wear, maybe can wear all white unies like Ucla the year we beat them 50-0.
    A one sided contest would be nice (with us with the W)

    Liked by 3 people

  11. No business phones going today so while sweetly contemplating
    SC-ND history it suddenly occurred to me that there is another game tomorrow, Ohio St-Michigan which some anoint as America’s biggest rivalry game in the face of contrary evidence showing SC-Notre Dame attracting a wider swath of American attention with Mid-Westerners backing their representative Notre Dame squad known for ‘salt of the earth’ football toughness coupled with roughshod rambling running attacks versus what they view in the West as carnival football with teams over-emphasizing passing to the detriment of ‘the run’

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s okay with me if our game turns out to be less exciting than Michigan/Ohio State —a nice lopsided USC win would be fine with me…
      Btw, I hope Barlow isn’t being given short shrift just cuz he’s a tenth of a second slower than the other backs —we don’t need him to break the big one…. we just need him to keep ripping off yardage every time he touches the ball….

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Final thoughts on SC-sucla–

    Just saw a picture of SC’s Blackmon lifting sucla’s DTR off the ground to body slam the poor guy to the turf which started the 3 interception barrage and we wonder where the term ‘”Kill the quarterback” comes from
    Still, DTR had some presence of mind left as he began to engineer that final drive to victory as visions of Utah and Vince Young rattled around in my mind, and I believe he would have won that game but for Foreman, God bless him

    Responding to AD Anthony Davis’ assertion that his 1972 Trojan team was the greatest of all time, we might recall how in 1960 college linemen were 110 pounds lighter than the 2010 teams and it was a different game back then with SC coach McKay seldom allowing more than 20 passes a game

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Too bad the guy in the 1958 photo got caught picking his nose and the guy to his right giving the universal “gag me” or “barf!” sign.


  14. In the book “Rockne And Jones” by Thomas Rupp a bit of info he mentions is that the U.S. Vice President attended the first game back in Chicago in addition to the other famous figures mentioned above.




    Liked by 1 person

      1. Headline News: “Army wins Big Game when President Biden orders entire Space Force team confined to locker room due to Trump ties!”

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I think SC will win. I’m reading a lot of football pundants on you tube who are picking ND. Here are some reasons that I think SC will win:
    1) LR is a proven winner and an experienced coach.
    2) Marcus Freeman is not(He’s a rookie).
    3) SC is a better team this year than ND.
    4) We’re playing at SC
    5) LR is right in the middle of a battle to make the playoffs. He needs this win.
    6) ND cannot make the playoffs this year.
    7) LR is not going to get outcoached by a rookie coach.
    8) Caleb Williams is running neck and neck to win the Heisman
    9) He needs to bring his A+ game in front of millions of game watchers on prime time
    10) If he brings his A+ game….SC wins
    11) ND will not be able to stop SC’s powerful offense.
    12) Once ND gets behind, then they have to start throwing the ball and they don’t
    have a great QB
    13) I’m picking SC

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Numbers 8-9 are what’s worrying me, parcelman.
      Caleb needs to forget about the Heisman implications.
      [It’s important he not let this game get too big for him].


      1. He’s a competitive guy. I’m sure he heard what DTR was saying and wanted to show him that CR was the best QB in LA. Some people can’t handle the pressure. I think Caleb will do fine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m impressed as hell with the way Caleb takes hits and pops up to return to action. Very tough kid. And he’s got the complete skillset. Great arm, fast feet, good judgement. My only concern is a lingering memory of him going into a funk on the sidelines of the Oregon State game.


      3. From an athletic and skill set perspective, IMO, he’s the best that I have seen play for USC at QB….For him to be the greatest, there need to be some team/ individual accolades attached to his name….the verdict is still out for me….my thoughts!


      4. They were comparing DTR with Caleb. I say….no comparison!!! DTR is in his 5th year. Caleb is just a sophomore. Palmer was not that good until Chow came to SC. He had one great year….his senior year.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Lincoln Riley vs Al Golden, Tommy Rees vs Alex Grinch. Of the four units, Irish offense is the easiest to defeat. Something tells me missing Cam Hart is a huge loss. How much is left in the passion bucket for USC?

    Another close game?


    1. Grench has heard all the talk that the reason LSU is 5th and USC is 6th is because of USC’s defense. I hope he has heard all that talk by the football pundants and he is taking it personally.


      1. One thing that SC has to do is make sure that they don’t block our kicks. This ND team is great at blocking kicks and SC’s special teams are nothing to write a book about.


  17. Hey MG, Trump dines with crazy Ye and Nick Fuentes, the white supremacist/ holocaust denier. There must have been a lot of flies on the table for that dinner.


    1. Let me add some context….. Last week, Ye had a conversation with Fuentes, where he told him not to judge him by his physical appearance because he’s actually a white supremacist trapped in the body of a black man.

      I guess that would explain why a few weeks back Ye had a “white lives matter” t-shirt on.


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