And on plays from scrimmage, Notre Dame defensed him the way they do any other fine running back, with equal respect for an air assault. Parseghian had decided Davis could gain 100 yards and not seriously hurt them. He gained but 55 on 19 carries, the longest for nine. "He's a great running back," said McKay. "His only problem is that everyone expects him to duplicate the impossible."
Notre Dame's defense expected no such thing. To a man they felt they had made Davis a star and they resented it. "He may end up on his knees," vowed Greg Collins, a 220-pound junior linebacker, referring to Davis' habit of sliding into end zones, "but he won't be doing it in the Notre Dame end zone. Last year he got six touchdowns. This year he'll be lucky to get six inches."
On his first carry, Davis managed two yards before being driven to the ground by Collins. Up rushed Tim Rudnick from his defensive back position to scream, "This isn't the Coliseum. Welcome to South Bend."
Rudnick had a private rage. Since last year's loss to USC, he had been personally blamed for all of Davis' scores. "And I wasn't even covering him," Rudnick fumed. "I'd be covering some receiver like J. K. McKay, hear a noise, turn around and there he'd be sliding past me on his knees. On all the All-America films, there he was and there I was with my mouth open."
Parseghian had hinted that he might throw away the book for USC. His record at Notre Dame was 79-15-4, but they claimed he never won a big one. "I guess they are only big if we lose," he said with a grin. Too, it has been mentioned that he never gambled if it might mean defeat. You do not win 79 games without an occasional gamble. Nevertheless.
Notre Dame burned the book on the first series. With a fourth and two at the USC 36, Parseghian sent in orders to go for it, but a delay of game penalty canceled the gamble. Still, it was an indication the Irish meant business.
In the first half USC's punting was a disaster. The first, partially blocked by Rudnick, went 15 yards and out of bounds at the Trojan 28. Notre Dame turned it into a 32-yard field goal by sidewinder Bob Thomas. His first of three. USC responded with the aid of an Irish personal foul and a varied attack to move 65 yards into a 7-3 lead. Davis got the last yard on a sweep. But Thomas' second field goal cut that to 7-6.
With little more than five minutes remaining in the second period Notre Dame marched again, starting from USC's 47. Clements handed off mostly to Russ Kornman and twice completed passes to Pete Demmerle as the Irish arrived at the Trojan goal line with a fourth down and 30 seconds left in the half. Clements took the ball in himself to put Notre Dame into the lead.
"Go for two," shouted Parseghian, who had used up all his time-outs. With the bedlam on the sideline, no one heard him and when Thomas kicked the extra point to make it 13-7, Parseghian covered his eyes.
At halftime, Parseghian elected to go with two tight ends, so bolstered, to run the powerful Notre Dame sweep at USC's weak side. The Trojans, who had hoped to win with the big play, were killed by it. Eric Penick, who finished with 118 yards, which was 50 more than USC managed, swept left from the 15 on Notre Dame's first offensive play of the second half, stepped over the wreckage left by Guards Gerry DiNardo and Frank Pomarico and Fullback Wayne Bullock and took off. At the 35, USC's Danny Reece grabbed Penick around the hips but he slipped away, and after that no one got close.