SI Vault
Rick Telander
December 05, 1988
And that's just what Lou Holtz's Notre Dame charges did in their showdown for No. 1 with USC
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December 05, 1988

Go Get 'em, Men

And that's just what Lou Holtz's Notre Dame charges did in their showdown for No. 1 with USC

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Trailing 7-0 after Rice's touchdown run on Notre Dame's next possession, Southern Cal dug itself into a real hole when tailback Aaron Emanuel got careless with a Peete swing pass and fumbled. Irish defensive end Frank Stams (see box, page 34) made the recovery at the Trojans' 19. Five plays later Green, who filled in nicely for Brooks, scored on a two-yard run to put Notre Dame ahead 14-0.

Stams, who finished with nine tackles, was all over the field for the Irish defense. So, too, were his buddies: tackles George Williams (four tackles, including 1� for losses and one pass broken up) and Jeff Aim (four tackles, including one for a loss and one pass broken up), linebacker Wes Pritchett (eight tackles, including one for a loss) and nosetackle Chris Zorich (four tackles and two passes broken up).

Notre Dame's blitzing scheme appeared to baffle the USC offensive line. Peete was constantly flushed from the pocket, and on several occasions he was decked just after throwing a pass. At times the Irish seemed to have more than 11 people on the field. "We blitzed a little more than usual," said Stams afterward, "but we didn't throw a new defense at them. We just got after them."

"We watched them all week in the films, and they always played teams that stunted and slanted," said Zorich. "They never played a team that goes face mask on face mask as we do. We just butt our opponents and knock their heads back."

With 2:24 remaining in the half, USC made the score 14-7 on a one-yard run by reserve tailback Scott Lockwood—two plays after perhaps the day's best example of just how tough the Irish are: The 225-pound Emanuel, running with a full head of steam, was straightened up and stopped just short of the goal line by 195-pound free safety Pat Terrell, a converted split end.

Peete had stung himself hard while making a touchdown-saving tackle early in the second quarter on Notre Dame strong safety George Streeter, who had intercepted one of Peete's passes and returned it 23 yards. Now, just before the half, after a Fighting Irish punt, Peete threw another interception. This one was picked off by cornerback Stan Smagala, who ran the ball back 64 yards for a touchdown. The play marked the first time in Peete's college career that a defender had returned one of his passes for a score. Worse, though, was the block that Stams laid on Peete as he pursued Smagala. Five plays later Stams sacked Peete, who took an early intermission.

The second half was a defensive struggle, with USC scoring on a 26-yard field goal and Notre Dame getting a touchdown on a 70-yard drive. Peete didn't look bad during the game, but he didn't look like a Heisman winner, either, largely because he was beaten to a pulp. Note, all you one-man teams, that's how important an offensive line is. "He got up slow," Zorich would say after the game. "I looked in his eyes, and he didn't have that 'eye of the tiger' look."

Did Notre Dame miss Brooks and Watters? "People go down, other people step in," said Smagala with a shrug. "We're a team. We're a class act, and we win with style."

Right now it's hard to determine exactly what that style is. Southern Cal outgained the Irish 356 yards to 253 and made 21 first downs to Notre Dame's eight. The Irish don't dazzle the opposition with a slick offense. No, their style is best defined by that opportunistic, head-cracking and—dare we say it—cocky defense. In the locker room several Trojans remarked that Notre Dame had done some serious trash-talking during the game. Notre Dame?

"Before, during and after the game," said Zorich. "That's college ball."

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