SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's first home night game since 1990 was supposed to be all about the Irish. New gold helmets, multiple five-star recruits on the sideline, even talk coming into the game about winning out and going to a BCS game.
USCheard all of the talk about the game and shrugged it off. Rivalry game? It was just another game to them. They were disrespected - first time in school history they were 5-1 and unranked in the polls on top of being a nine-point underdog - and were taking a business trip to the Midwest.
Behind a surprising rushing attack and the reliable duo of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, the Trojans pulled off the upset 31-17 and stunned a capacity crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish offense struggled most of the night. Despite allowing Tommy Rees to pick up a few big games on checkdowns and some open receivers in the middle of the field, the Trojans much-maligned secondary held Michael Floyd to just four catches and 28 yards. Outside of George Atkinson III's kickoff return for a touchdown right late in the second quarter, the offense was limited to just 10 points and well under 100 yards rushing.
USC had won eight in a row in the series before dropping (literally) one in the Coliseum last year. After establishing the tone early with their longest scoring drive of the season on USC's opening drive, oft-criticized Lane Kiffin picked up his first signature victory as head coach of the Trojans. Both Kiffin and athletic director Pat Haden, a former analyst for Notre Dame broadcasts, have discussed how wins and losses against the Irish are different from others the school might have.
Coming in the talk was all about the blue and gold. Coming out, thanks to Barkley, Woods and Kiffin, it was all about the cardinal and gold.