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40 Years Ago: The Greatest Comeback

The Notre Dame-USC rivalry has had many exciting games, but nothing was as exciting as "The Comeback." Saturday will mark the 40th anniversary of an improbable comeback.

USC's hopes will be won or lost in the trenches against a physical Notre Dame squad.
USC's hopes will be won or lost in the trenches against a physical Notre Dame squad.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans and Irish are gearing up to battle for the 86th time. This rivalry is one of most storied in all of college football. Notre Dame and USC are both traditionally elite programs. The two combined have produced 22 national titles, 14 Heisman trophy winners and 21 NFL Hall of Famers. Notre Dame currently leads the series, 45-34-5. After USC dominated 2002-2009, Notre Dame has settled in to win three of the last four.

Both the Trojans and the Irish have had plenty to of good and bad moments this season. After beginning their season with a 6-0 start, the Irish were officially playoff contenders. Things spiraled downhill quickly, as the Irish have lost four out of their last five games. The Irish currently stand at 7-4. As for the Trojans, they’ve struggled to find consistency all season. The Trojans also stand at 7-4, after coming off an embarrassing loss to the UCLA Bruins last week.

This Saturday’s match-up isn’t just important because it looks good on paper, but it also marks the 40th anniversary of the greatest comeback in this heated rivalry. The year was 1974. The Trojans and Irish came into the game with an 8-1 record. The defending National Champions were ready to shut down the Trojans.

In what was Notre Dame head coach, Ara Parseghian’s last game, the Irish dominated the first half and jumped out to a 24-0 lead. With ten seconds remaining before halftime, running back Anthony Davis scored on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Pat Haden. Davis continued to work his magic, as he took the kickoff and scored a 102-yard touchdown. Davis ended up scoring two more touchdowns in the third. Haden and crew poured it on, as they tallied up 35 points in the third quarter. The Trojans scored an astonishing 55 points in under 17 minutes. USC didn’t allow Notre Dame the pleasure of scoring another point the rest of the game. The final score was 55-24, in what is now known as the greatest comeback in the series and one of the best in college football history.

USC hasn’t won this game since 2011. Coach Sarkisian needs a signature win. This can be his first of hopefully many to come. The Trojans and Irish aren’t just playing for another win. They’re not just playing for the Jeweled Shillelagh. They’re playing for pride. Pride and tradition means the world to these two historically successful programs. One thing is for sure, in a series that is full of great games, this one should be close and entertaining. Both programs are hungry to prove they’re superior and one, at least for the moment, will.