Except one. Most of the day it was as if Reggie Bush had a big S on his chest. He netted 160 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and added another 105 yards on pass receptions and kick returns. "Every time he touches the ball, he can score," noted a chagrined Weis afterward. "He can, and he did."
Emotionally and physically drained after the game, Leinart lamented over and over that he "wasn't on" and that he'd "missed some easy throws," both of which were true. But with the season and the streak on the line, Leinart showed what he was made of. On fourth-and-nine at the USC 26, with 1:32 left and the Weis-coached crowd making so much noise that Trojans left tackle Sam Baker said he couldn't hear the signals, Leinart surveyed the defense and--this is the stuff of national champions--checked out of the play he had called. Instead, he lofted a pass 24 yards down the left sideline, just beyond the reach of Notre Dame cornerback Ambrose Wooden and into the waiting hands of wideout Dwayne Jarrett, who'd injured his right eye while diving for a ball earlier in the quarter and whose vision was still blurred.
"We had the perfect defense [called]," said Weis. "They threw a fade route into our Two Tampa [scheme]. It's complete by an inch. I mean, you don't throw fade routes into Two Tampa, but this guy did."
A squinting Jarrett was brought down after a 61-yard gain, at the Irish 13. Four snaps after that, Leinart fumbled the ball out of bounds. If he holds on to the rock, the streak is over. If he fumbles anywhere but out of bounds, the streak is over.
But the streak lives. Afterward, in a display of sportsmanship that characterizes what is undoubtedly the coolest intersectional rivalry in the country, Weis entered the visitors' dressing room. "I just want to wish you guys luck the rest of the way," he told the Trojans. "That was a friggin' hard-fought battle. I hope you win out."
You think Notre Dame is good now? Fourteen blue-chip recruits were on hand to see this game. The next day Weis met with each of them for a half-hour. Of course he hopes the Trojans win out. Just as he hopes that, when the Irish travel to California next year, USC is still undefeated.