Tradition alive in Irish win
By TED FOX
Rivalry. Tradition. The luck of the Irish. Memories of why Notre Dame football is what it is. These were all present and accounted for on Oct. 16 when the USC Trojans rolled into town for their 71st game against the Irish, in a series dating back to 1926.
Outlined against a blue and sunny October sky, USC built a 21-3 halftime lead, well on their way to their fourth-straight win against the Irish.
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, heavy with rain and wind, a half meant for Notre Dame football, the Irish stormed back and took control, scoring 22 unanswered points on the way to a 25-24 win.
USC marked this year's game by reminding us that it was the 25th anniversary of its 24-point come-from-behind win against the Irish in '74, a game the Trojans ended up winning 55-24.
The Blue and Gold instead chose to mark this year's game with a 21-point come-from-behind victory that didn't happen when disco and polyester were still popular.
By the half, USC was banging on the door of history, trying to become just the fifth team since 1908 to take four-straight games from Notre Dame.
As history reached to let them in, Jarious Jackson told him to wait a few hours while he and his teammates went out and played another half of football.
History couldn't find USC once the half was over.
The Irish were driving but still trailed 24-10 at the end of the third quarter, a quarter where they had the gusting wind at their back. The fourth quarter was going to be USC's turn to seize this advantage from the home team.
The wind wasn't too happy with this plan, so at the start of the fourth, it decided to turn and blow in the Trojans' face for the third quarter in a row.
The rain saw what the wind was doing and realized it was good, so it just started to empty itself over the stadium, seemingly, as Jackson later noted, every time USC had the ball.
Trojan quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst came into the third quarter realizing that his offense basically had done whatever it wanted against the Notre Dame defense in the first half.
Led by Ron Israel's perfectly-timed blitz and forced fumble and Deke Cooper's interception, the Irish defense realized that no one was going to remember what happened back in the first half.
With a fourth quarter drive stalled at the Trojan 15-yard line, the crowd got restless as the Irish kicking unit came on to the field — a group Notre Dame faithful have come to doubt due to past performances.
After all, sophomore kicker David Miller, making his first start, had already missed his first career field goal attempt earlier that day when the weather still resembled a Southern California afternoon.
That apparently didn't matter as the ball flew through the uprights and slammed into the net with 8:07 to go in the fourth.
As the rain continued to drive down, Jackson told his receivers that they didn't need to worry about him getting the ball there. It would get there; they just had to catch it.
That's when tight end Jabari Holloway decided to throw out what everyone knows about big tight ends and make a fully-extended finger tip grab with wet hands to sustain the game-winning drive.
And when Jackson took off on a second-down scramble from the USC 18, seeing all his receivers covered, wove his way inside the 5-yard line, and then had the ball knocked loose at the USC goal line, the Trojans, and just about everyone watching or listening, thought they had done it to the Irish again.
Holloway and Jackson didn't, though.
The fifth-year senior quarterback said he didn't know how the ball got knocked loose, only that, at the bottom of that pile, while the USC alumni started to say their "I told you so's" and the Men of Troy started to celebrate, he watched the ball pass from his hands into those of his trusted junior tight end.
He knew all along. They all knew all along.
Maybe you still can see Touchdown Jesus from that end zone after all.
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, October 27, 1999