Trojans survive vs. Irish

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Leinart scored in the final seconds to lift No. 1 USC to a 34-31 victory.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Matt Leinart launched himself toward the end zone with Southern Cal's winning streak and its No. 1 ranking hanging in the balance.

Swarmed by Notre Dame just short, the ball went shooting out of bounds and the clock ticked down to 0:00.

Over on the sideline, Charlie Weis raised his arms in what he thought was victory, sending the Fighting Irish and their joyous fans pouring onto the field.

Sorry, Charlie. The top-ranked Trojans weren't done.

After USC coach Pete Carroll sprinted down the field to plead his case, officials put 7 seconds back on the clock and the ball inside the 1.

With another chance, Leinart pushed and spun his way into the end zone with 3 seconds left to cap a chaotic finish. USC escaped with its 28th straight victory, a back-and-forth 34-31 win Saturday over No. 9 Notre Dame.

"You gotta believe you're going to win the way that happened," Carroll said.

The Irish (4-2), dressed for success in kelly green jerseys, tested the two-time defending champs as the Trojans never had been during their 2 1/2 season run of excellence.

Leinart had the option to spike the ball on the goal line play to regroup his team or go with what he had. He chose the latter, took it in himself over the left side and got a little help moving the pile from tailback Reggie Bush.

"I used all 200 pounds of my body to push Matt in," said Bush, who ran for 160 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns.

Carroll said USC (6-0) never considered settling for a field goal attempt to send it to overtime.

"We'll be happy to leave South Bend," Carroll said.

Quinn had given Notre Dame a 31-28 lead with 2:02 left, dashing around right end for a 5-yard touchdown.

But Leinart answered when it looked most bleak for USC, completing a 61-yard pass to Dwayne Jarrett on a fourth-and-9 at his own 26.

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