For Trojan fans, it was not a game, it was a sighting. It was Fatima, Lourdes and the Burning Bush combined.
For Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian, it was the Seventh Circle of Hell.
It was a 17-minute Southern California earthquake, epicentered at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a fall Saturday in 1974.
Notre Dame 24, USC 0. Then USC managed a touchdown on a swing pass from quarterback Pat Haden to tailback Anthony Davis with 10 seconds left in the first half.
“We had dominated the first half,” said legendary Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian. After Davis scored, “that didn't bother me that much, because we had done very well in the game. “
“I said gentlemen, we're behind,” USC coach John McKay once recalled of his halftime speech, “and two guys who were math majors put up their hands and said, ‘Yeah, that’s right.’ ”
In a 2000 interview McKay said if Davis ran the second half kickoff back for a touchdown, “we would win the game.” Over the years, McKay's remarks were changed to "Davis will run the second half kickoff back for a touchdown," but like everything else that day, his words are now legend and myth. Fertig was a myth-teller par excellence. According to his story, McKay stated, “And I'll tell you one other thing, we're gonna return the second half kick-off.”
Fertig further stated McKay told special teams blocker Mosi Tatupu “there’s no rule in this game against blocking,” and “if you'll get off your rear end” and David Farmer also would block, “if you two will hit somebody, Anthony Davis will go 98 yards for the touchdown,” adding “he was wrong. A.D. went 100 yards.”
USC radio announcer Tom Kelly famously started the second half broadcast, “It's been an Irish afternoon,” but after Davis took the ball out of the end zone he immediately got excited . . . very excited.
“. . . Davis coming out at the 10, 15, 20, he's coming out at the 30 . . . HE’S GOING ALL THE WAY! They won't catch him. Touchdown USC, 100 YARDS!”
Dressed to the nines in a black suit, carnation in his pocket, national title ring glistening on his finger, A.D.’s eyes got big as he recalled the moment.
“I haven't seen a kick like this in two years. End over end, perfect kick, right in my hands, two yards deep in the end zone . . . And I always had a seven-yard relationship with my wedge. Every time they were hitting on defenders, I was making my breaks. I always gave myself three ways to run, so when I hit the edge, the whole field opened up, and I hit the sideline, on an angle, and I tell you, I was fast on the ring because I outran that angle, and it was on.”
“We were trying to kick the ball away from him,” said Parseghian, looking like a guy trying not to think about a long-ago mugging. “I said kick it down to one side or the other, whatever you feel most comfortable with, I remember it vividly, and he kicks it right to Anthony, his left side, right in front of us, and I had the impulse to grab him, not like I could have.”
The next 17 minutes were the most exciting in college football and Los Angeles sports history. That span included the kick-off return for a touchdown, a TD pass, a fumble recovery, another Davis TD run from scrimmage followed by A.D. diving in for a two-point conversion, a 56-yard punt return, another TD pass, an interception, another TD pass, and finally Charles Phillips’s 58-yard interception return for a touchdown. 55-24.
Up in the broadcast booth, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes must have felt like a Prussian military commander with a binocular-view of Napoleon's Italian Campaign, knowing he would have to face them down the road. The USC rooting section started chanting, "Woody, you're next!" in reference to the upcoming Rose Bowl.
USC won the national championship after a thrilling, comeback 18-17 win over the Buckeyes. Parseghian never coached after that season. Rumors have it he sees a therapist to combat visions of a white horse constantly running around a field.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism