Updated: Sunday, November 28, 2004 1:13 AM EST
NCAA FOOTBALL RECAP
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(1) USC 41, Notre Dame 10
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
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USC TROJANS
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LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Once Matt Leinart and No. 1 Southern California got used to the rain, it was all over for Notre Dame.

Leinart threw for a career-high 400 yards and matched a personal best and school record with five touchdown passes as the Trojans overcame an early deficit in wet conditions to trounce the rival Fighting Irish, 41-10, for their 20th consecutive victory.

"Matt played great tonight," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He made some great throws and had some great protection. We had guys running down the field and he found them. He just made another statement tonight. He's done it all."

Making a strong case for the Heisman Trophy, Leinart completed 24-of-34 passes for USC (11-0), which set a school record with its 21st straight home win and beat the Irish by exactly 31 points for a third straight year.

"We just had to take our time," Leinart said. "We wanted to exploit their secondary. ... We just kept running our plays."

The Trojans, who are off to their best start since going 12-0 and winning the national championship in 1972, can conclude a wire-to-wire season as the nation's top-ranked team and secure an Orange Bowl berth with a victory at UCLA next week.

USC trailed, 10-3, before Leinart found true freshman Dwayne Jarrett for a 12-yard touchdown with 5:53 left in the second quarter. Just under four minutes later, Leinart threw a short pass to Jarrett, who took advantage of a great block by fellow receiver Steve Smith and ran 57 yards down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

"That's what makes USC such an explosive team: the ability to generate big plays," Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. "They made big plays in the passing game."

Jarrett, who had six catches for 102 yards, has 12 touchdown receptions in his first season with the Trojans.

Trailing, 20-10, Notre Dame drove to the USC 22 with six minutes left in the third quarter and called timeout after Brady Quinn threw an incomplete pass on first down. But the Fighting Irish managed just one yard off back-to-back trick plays before D.J. Fitzpatrick pushed a 39-yard field goal attempt wide left. Three plays later, Trojans tailback Reggie Bush caught a swing pass from Leinart and ran 69 yards for a touchdown.

"Once we adjusted to what they were doing, it was all about us, all about what we do," Bush said.

Leinart added fourth-quarter TD passes of 35 yards to Smith - who had missed five games with a broken leg - and 23 yards to Jason Mitchell to blow open the contest.

"We proved tonight that we're the No. 1 team in the country," said Leinart, whose team split the national championship with Louisiana State last season. "We've been doing this all year, for the past couple of years."

Ryan Grant had 15 carries for 94 yards for Notre Dame (6-5), which outrushed USC, 195-83.

"They are No. 1 for a reason," Willingham said of the Trojans. "They demonstrated tonight that if you take something away from them, like their running game, they will find some other way of getting past you."

Quinn went 15-of-29 for 105 yards, opening the scoring with a two-yard TD pass to tight end Billy Palmer on 4th-and-goal with 6:24 left in the first quarter.


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