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Every Tuesday morning during the football season USC Coach John McKay sits down in a campus conference room for a Continental breakfast with a group of sportswriters. This informal gab session is facetiously known in various quarters as Rolls and Rhetoric, Doughnuts and Doubletalk or Munch with McKay. Last week the munch bunch heard the silver-haired coach voice his respect for Notre Dame and especially its nation-leading defense, which had allowed a mere eight touchdowns all season and an awesomely meager average of 2.2 yards per rush.
"They do not leak," he said. "They submerge you."
Apparently pleased with this nautical expression, McKay moved on to Notre Dame's 266-pound defensive end, Steve Niehaus, who "looks as big as a whale and moves like a porpoise." The Irish had, he added ominously, "a lot of big guys running around hitting people. You're not going to make a lot of points on them."
Ha! That just shows you how much coaches know. Last Saturday in the Los Angeles Coliseum, before 83,552 in-person guests and a national TV audience, USC sportingly spotted Notre Dame 24 points and then started one of the most remarkable scoring blitzkriegs in college football history and the worst disaster for the Irish since the potato famine. The rampaging Trojans came back from 24-0 to win going away, 55-24.
This is how it happened—the plays that Notre Dame Coach Ara Parseghian will have nightmares about for years to come:
Quarterback Pat Haden hits Tailback Anthony Davis on a swing pass for seven yards and a touchdown. Conversion attempt smothered by the center of the Irish line; 10 seconds left in the first half. Notre Dame 24-6.
Kickoff to start the second half. Davis, who scored six TDs against the Irish in the Coliseum two years ago, catches the ball two yards deep in his end zone, races up the middle, gets a key block from Ricky Bell, cuts to the left sideline and goes all the way for a touchdown (the sixth time he has done it in his career, an NCAA record). Two-point conversion attempt no good. Only 14 seconds used up. Notre Dame 24-12.
Kevin Bruce's fumble recovery and two long Haden pass completions put USC on the Irish four and Davis carries it over. Davis dives in for a two-point conversion; 6:23 gone in the third quarter. USC takes the lead 27-24.
Marvin Cobb's 56-yard punt return has helped USC reach the Irish 18. From there Haden hits McKay in the end zone. Kick good; 9:23 gone in the third. USC 34-24.