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USC Beats Notre Dame - Trojans Take Advantage Of Turnovers In Upset

James Santelli |
October 22, 2011 | 9:43 p.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

Jawanza Starling's 80-yard fumble return kept USC in control (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy, 2010)
Jawanza Starling's 80-yard fumble return kept USC in control (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy, 2010)

USC capitalized on three Notre Dame turnovers, including a goal-line fumble returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Jawanza Starling, to upset the Fighting Irish on the road 31-17.

Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley completed 24 of 35 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, without being sacked or throwing an interception. Robert Woods pulled in 12 of those throws, including two touchdown receptions.

The USC defense held Notre Dame to just 41 rushing yards and recovered two Irish fumbles. An interception by Nickell Robey with 6:43 left in the game sealed the ninth USC victory over ND in the last ten rivalry games. Notre Dame entered the game ranked 113th in the FBS with a minus-seven turnover margin.

USC led from wire-to-wire in the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium since 1990. The Trojans' defense forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame's opening possession and the offense followed with a 13-play touchdown drive that lasted over seven-and-a-half minutes.

Randall Telfer TD against Notre Dame (mp3)

Barkley completed 9 of his first 10 passes, capped off by a 3-yard completion to Robert Woods, standing all alone in the back of the endzone, to put the Trojans up 14-0.

Robert Woods First Touchdown (mp3)

Later in the first half, a 96-yard touchdown return by ND's George Atkinson III kept the Irish within striking distance.

Notre Dame returns kickoff for TD (mp3)

Notre Dame's offense did not cross into USC territory until under two minutes left in the 2nd quarter, but once they did, the Irish drove inside the Trojans 10-yard line to set up a field goal and cut their deficit to 17-10 heading into the half.

Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees (Shotgun Spratling)
Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees (Shotgun Spratling)
The Irish were one yard from tying the game on their first drive of the 3rd quarter. Despite an injury to starting quarterback Tommy Rees (pictured left in last year's game) in the middle of the possession, ND drove 88 yards on 18 plays to set themselves up for a 3rd-and-goal play at USC's 1. Backup QB Dayne Crist fumbled the snap, the ball was kicked away from the play, and Starling picked it up and saw nothing but fresh grass for 80 yards, putting USC up 24-10.

Jawanza Starling TD (mp3)

The swing was negated on the following drive. Notre Dame struck back less than two minutes later. Jonas Gray darted to the left side for a 25-yard touchdown run, the longest play of the game for the Irish offense, to put ND within a touchdown.

Jonas Gray Touchdown (mp3)


Notre Dame's next two (and final two) possessions ended with turnovers in their own half of the field. RB Cierre Wood, who was held to five rushing yards on five carries, fumbled away his last carry, which was picked up by USC's Chris Galippo. Then Robey's INT around midfield clinched the win.

(All audio clips from KXSC's game broadcast, featuring play-by-play man Dave Dulberg.)

USC RB Curtis McNeal (Shotgun Spratling)
USC RB Curtis McNeal (Shotgun Spratling)
UNSUNG HERO: USC Junior RB Curtis McNeal (pictured right) garnered career highs with 24 carries for 118 yards. He and Marc Tyler (13 carries, 67 yards) helped extend drives for the Trojans and gain a 39:41 time of possession total.

CONTAINMENT: The Trojans' defense did a great job of holding back the Irish on Saturday night. Notre Dame did not have an offensive play go more than 25 yards, and averaged only 4.7 yards per play (compared to USC's 5.6 average). 'SC also held star receiver Michael Floyd to only four catches and 28 yards.

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM: Not only did quarterback Matt Barkley avoid getting sacked, he created some plays with his feet. On USC's first drive, he evaded a sack and moved the chains on a 4th and 1 in Notre Dame territory, in what ended up as a TD drive. He did the same thing on a 3rd-and-1 play in the 4th quarter, sparking a Trojans drive that ended in a missed field goal.

POSTGAME QUOTE: USC linebacker Chris Galippo caused a stir on Twitter with his comments on the Irish: "They just quit. And that's what Notre Dame football is about. They're not anything like USC." Galippo cited the fact that ND did not use any of their three available timeout to stop the clock on the Trojans' final possession.

TAKE IT AWAY: The Trojans defense had five total takeaways in the first five games of the season. They have combined for eight takeaways in the last two contests, against Cal and Notre Dame.

BIG TIME IN SOUTH BEND: Quarterback Matt Barkley has gone 2-0 against Notre Dame, both wins in South Bend. He threw for 380 yards in the victory his freshman year, then was sidelined with an injury last season.

COMING UP NEXT: Expect the Trojans to be ranked when the new AP poll comes out. They were 28th (third in "Others Receiving Votes") before Saturday's road victory. USC will take on undefeated Stanford at the Coliseum next week. The Cardinal beat No. 25 Washington 65-21 on Saturday, and have won all of their games by at least 26 points this season. And it is possible that ESPN's "College Gameday" could come to Los Angeles, with the game being televised in prime time on ABC.

Robert Woods Second Touchdown (mp3)


Reach James by email or follow him on Twitter, @JamesSantelli.

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