Most fans know about the biggest games in USC history, like the 1967 UCLA game or the 1974 Notre Dame game. I thought I'd dig through the history books for a look at some of USC's forgotten triumphs.
On September 29, 1979, USC was 3-0 and ranked #1 when it came to Baton Rouge to face the 20th-ranked Tigers. LSU had previously dispatched Colorado and Rice by a combined score of 91-3.
Even with the Heisman-winning backfield of Charles White and Marcus Allen (and assisted by Michael Hayes), USC could do hardly anything right in the first half. White tore up the field -- eventually running for 185 yards -- but the Trojans lost one fumble and never found the endzone. Only a Jeff Fisher interception and the Tigers' bungled extra-point attempt kept the half from being a total disaster. USC was down 9-3 at halftime and Tiger Stadium, known as "Deaf Valley" even then, was roaring.
In the third quarter, the situation got even worse. USC got down to the LSU 7, had to settle for a field goal attempt...and missed. The Tigers marched right back down the field to the USC 2, but the defense forced a field goal, and LSU was up 12-3 as the fourth quarter began. The number one team in the country had scored all of three points.
And that's when the Trojans finally got their act together. A few Student Body Right plays sent White behind blockers Keith Van Horne, Chris Foote, and (that year's Lombardi Award winner) Brad Budde. White scored on a four-yard run to cut LSU's lead to 2.
But when the Trojans got the ball back, they fumbled. LSU committed several penalties and had to punt, giving USC the ball on their own 21 with 4:16 remaining. Paul McDonald led the Trojans down the field, helped by a Tiger facemask penalty which they're still debating on YouTube. On the 8-yard-line, and needing only a field goal to win, McDonald found wide receiver Kevin Williams in the endzone with 32 seconds left. For once, Tiger Stadium was quiet.
Charles White would go on to win the Heisman, Brad Budde would win the Lombardi, and the Trojans would win the 1980 Rose Bowl, finishing #2 in both polls; their only blemish on a perfect season was a 21-21 tie against Stanford.
LSU would never recover, finishing 7-5, including a win over Wake Forest in the Tangerine Bowl (now called the Capital One Bowl). Along with the heartbreaking loss to the Trojans, LSU lost 3-0 to #1 Alabama, also at home. Losing to two #1 teams twice in one season -- at home -- may be some kind of record.
If you enjoyed this piece, please let me know. I'll look for more exciting moments in USC history as the season goes on.