SOUTH BEND - Out of all the college football rivalries Bob Davie has been a part of as a head coach, he rates the annual Notre Dame-USC matchup as No. 1.
It's the one game that makes Davie's well-coifed hair frizzle long before a down is played.
After leading Notre Dame to a 27-16 victory over USC yesterday, Fighting Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday may soon feel the same way. But even if he doesn't, he'll still remember for a long time his first start against the Trojans.
The sophomore experienced one of his best days during his short time as the starting quarterback as he led the Irish back from a 13-3 deficit by rolling up 231 total yards (133 passing, 98 rushing), including a 35-yard touchdown scamper late in the third quarter which proved to be the game-clinching score for a Notre Dame team that has won three straight.
Yet, it was a game Holiday could have easily looked back on as a nightmare. He fumbled three times and took a hard shot to the knee early in the second quarter that left him wondering if he had played his last down of the season.
Fortunately, Holiday wasn't seriously hurt and the Irish defense was relentless - holding the Trojans to just three scoring drives one week after USC ripped Arizona State for 48 points.
“I really tried not to think about that,” said Holiday of the fumbles. “I really tried to bounce back from what I did.”
He did, time and again, to help the Irish (3-3) reach .500. He also displayed the kind of ability that should make future Irish opponents concerned.
“He (Holiday) certainly ran that offense well for them and made plays when he had the opportunity to make them,” USC coach Pete Carroll said.
Davie, who improved to 3-2 against USC (2-5), praised his young playmaker.
“I thought Carlyle Holiday did a lot of great things,” Davie said. “I think he showed he can pass and he can certainly run. But he put the ball on the ground three times and that really hurt us.
“He's young. He's only going to get better. I continue to be impressed with his play.”
The Irish defense gave up 290 yards, but got stronger as the game progressed.
After giving up two touchdowns early in the first half, an 18-yard field goal by David Davis with 9:30 left in the third quarter finished USC's scoring. Before Davis' field goal, the Irish defense stopped the Trojans on three straight running plays inside the 5-yard line. With USC leading 13-10 and at the Irish 1, Carroll called on Davis instead of going for a touchdown on fourth down. The kick gave USC a 16-10 lead.
“It's not the right decision now, but it was the right decision then,” Carroll said. “Unfortunately, that was the last time we scored.”
Irish running back Julius Jones gained 95 yards on 21 carries, including a five-yard touchdown run with 1:21 remaining.
Nicholas Setta, who has made a field goal in eight straight games, was good from 38 and 29 yards.