Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame pushed Southern California to the very last second, showing the Fighting Irish could go toe-to-toe with their fiercest rival.
Beating the Trojans, well, Charlie Weis’ team still hasn’t figured out how do to that.
Clausen threw three incomplete passes into the end zone in the closing seconds, and No. 6 USC held on Saturday for a 34-27 victory, its eighth straight win against Notre Dame.
“When it came right down to it we found ways to make plays,” USC coach Pete Carroll said.
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Notre Dame’s streak of last-minute victories ended at three, but the Irish (4-2) at least showed they could compete with USC.
“I think anyone that doesn’t realize the fight that’s in the Fighting Irish is missing the boat. It’s evident if you watch the last five games. Every week it’s the same thing,” Weis said. “This team’s a bunch of fighters. I’m proud of the fight. I’m disappointed with the loss, it’s never OK to lose. But they’re a bunch of fighters.”
USC had dominated Notre Dame the prior three seasons and led 34-14 in the fourth quarter Saturday. The Fighting Irish seemed on their way to the type of lopsided loss that would have their supporters grumbling about Weis again.
Instead, Clausen and the Irish rallied back, but couldn’t score into the same end zone where the Trojans (5-1) famously scored four years ago on the Bush Push, which gave Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and USC a 34-31 victory in Weis’ first season.
On Clausen’s first pass into the end zone, Kyle Rudolph made juggling catch but was out of bounds. The second was knocked down by Josh Pinkard and the Trojans started celebrating thinking the game was over.
Clausen and USC quarterback Matt Barkley, pals from southern California, even exchanged what they thought was a postgame handshake.
But the officials ruled there was 1 second left. Clausen fired to Duval Kamara, who slipped and couldn’t get a hand on it.
“Coming up short, one second to go, it’s heartbreaking,” Clausen said.
Barkley was 19 for 29 for 380 yards and two touchdowns to Damian Williams, who had four catches for 108 yards. Anthony McCoy had five catches for 153 yards.
The Trojans appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open when Joe McKnight scored a diving touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
“Down three scores, I bet everyone in the house probably figured it’s time to throw in the towel. Not this group,” Weis said.
The Irish closed to 34-27 midway through the fourth quarter on a 2-yard TD run by Clausen and a 15-yard TD pass from Clausen to Golden Tate after an interception by Irish cornerback Gary Gray.
Clausen was 24-of-43 passes for 260 yards and two touchdown passes while facing a strong USC pass rush. He threw the ball away five times and was sacked five times.
California 45, at UCLA 26: Jahvid Best made a 93-yard touchdown run and caught a 51-yard scoring pass, and the Bears (4-2, 1-2 Pacific-10 Conference) got back on track after two tough losses with a big first half in a win over the Bruins (3-3, 0-3).
Shane Vereen rushed for 154 yards and a score, and Marvin Jones caught two TD passes from Kevin Riley in the Golden Bears’ first win in nearly a month.
At Arizona 43, Stanford 38: Nic Grigsby raced 57 yards for a touchdown with 2:57 to go, and the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 Pac-10) rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat the Cardinal (4-3, 3-2).
The Wildcats ended a wild night in the desert by repelling the Cardinal on fourth-and-10 at Arizona’s 17, with cornerback Trevin Wade batting down a pass intended for Chris Owusu in the end zone.