Bumped, Ricky was great!! - P
They were 5-1 and ranked #14 in the country. Their boosters had put tombstones for the USC offense in the campus chapel. During the game, their fans held up a bedsheet that read, "On the eighth day, God created Notre Dame."
Of course, this was the year after USC’s epic comeback at the Coliseum, en route to the national title. But now the Fighting Irish had a new coach, Dan Devine, and a new starting quarterback, Joe Montana. On the USC side, even with Rose Bowl MVP Pat Haden and All-American Anthony Davis gone, the Trojans hadn’t missed a step. The new offense, led by quarterback Vince Evans, fullback Mosi Tatupu (Lofa’s father), and running back Ricky Bell, helped the Trojans to a 6-0 record and a #3 ranking.
The two ranked teams met in South Bend on October 25, 1975. Notre Dame scored on their second play, a 52-yard run by Al Hunter. The Trojans tied it up, but then the Irish blocked a punt, recovered the ball, and ran 13 yards for a touchdown. USC looked in disarray, fumbling twice, losing an interception, and allowing the blocked punt. Somehow, it was only 14-7 as halftime neared.
As time ran out, Vince Evans threw a desperation pass -- and it was intercepted by Notre Dame’s Tom Lopienski. No one could catch him until Ricky Bell tackled him on the Trojans’ 27 yard-line, keeping the Irish only a touchdown ahead. It wouldn’t be Bell’s last contribution of the game.
In the second half, the defense began to pressure Montana. In fact, the future Hall-of-Famer would only complete three passes the entire game. Doug Hanson intercepted "Comeback Joe," setting up Bell’s 2-yard run to tie the game at 14. Notre Dame countered with a field goal early in the fourth quarter to go up by three.
Then it was Ricky Bell’s time to shine. USC’s drive began on the 29. Bell ran for 19, 12, and 11 yards. Tatupu ran for 13. On third and goal, Evans faked to Bell, who drew off virtually the entire Notre Dame defense while Evans scooted in for the score. USC 21, Notre Dame 17.
Danny Reece then intercepted Montana again, and again Evans handed the ball to Bell and Tatupu to run down the clock. USC added a field goal to go up by a touchdown. After that, the USC defense, which included Dennis Thurman, held the Irish and forced them to punt. They never got the ball back, and the Golden Domers’ revenge would have to wait.
Ricky Bell was the star of the game. He carried the ball 40 times for 165 yards and a touchdown, which beat O.J. Simpson’s record of 38 carries for 150 yards, also against Notre Dame. Bell accounted for 47 yards on USC’s go-ahead touchdown drive and prevented a Notre Dame TD just before halftime. He would go on to lead the nation in rushing that season, with 1,875 yards, and finish third in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
Notre Dame would win three of their next four games and finish 8-3; Irish fans mostly remember the season for Rudy Ruettiger, who got to play against Georgia Tech that November. The Trojans inexplicably went into a tailspin, losing all four of their remaining games (including UCLA, 25-22), only redeeming themselves by shutting out #12 Texas A&M, 22-0, in the Liberty Bowl. Their final ranking was 19th in the AP Poll and 17th in the Coaches.
Oh, and whatever happened to those 11 tombstones that fans had put in the campus chapel, the ones that read "Here Lies USC’s Offense, October 25, 1975"? Offensive tackle Melvin Jackson told the Los Angeles Times, "We took them back to the hotel. We’re gonna show them to our grandchildren some day."