The Cardiac Kids did it again.
But this time, the heart stopping moments on the field ended with a loss.
25th-ranked Notre Dame rallied from a 20-point deficit in the 4th quarter and had a chance to tie the game and force overtime in the final second but Jimmy Clausen's pass from the 4-yard line went incomplete as #6 USC held on for a 34-27 victory at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.
"Anyone who doesn't realize the fight that's in the Fighting Irish is missing the boat," head coach Charlie Weis said after the game.
It’s the first time since 1983 that the Irish have played in five straight games where the margin of victory was seven points or less. This year’s streak started with a loss at Michigan, followed by three straight wins.
"I'm proud of the fight. I'm disappointed with the loss," Weis said. "It's never okay to lose. But they're a bunch of fighters. Down three scores, about everyone in the house figured it's probably time to throw in the towel. Not this group. No way. Not happening."
In defeat, the Irish made a statement that they can be competitive with the top teams in the country. Notre Dame lost to USC by a combined margin of 76-3 over the last two years.
"What we did today showed a lot to the country," Clausen said. "I'm so proud of this team, keep fighting when we're down. I think that's what the team is all about."
It's the 7th straight loss for Notre Dame to a top 10 team, four of which have come at the hands of USC.
"It's a loss," Clausen said. "Whether it's to the No. 1 team in the country or the No. 6 team in the country, it's a loss. I give a lot of respect to SC. They came out and fought hard."
The Trojans have won eight straight games in the series, tying the record for any Notre Dame opponent against the Irish. USC coach Pete Carroll is now 8-1 against the Irish with his only loss coming in his first season in 2001.
"We're thrilled to have had the run we've had and hope to keep this thing rolling," Carroll said. "It's a big deal to us. It's special. So we got to hang onto it."
"It's really special for the SC family to continue to be on top of this rivalry. I know they're going to enjoy the heck out of it. They deserve it.
Charlie Weis, meanwhile, drops to 0-5 against the Trojans.
The game had a similar feel to the last classic in the series--2005--where USC won in the final seconds on the famous “Bush Push.”
Down 34-14 in the 4th quarter, Jimmy Clausen led the Irish on a scoring drive to make it 34-20 as the Irish missed the extra point.
On the ensuing drive, Gary Gray intercepted a Matt Barkley pass and returned it to the USC 13. That setup a Clausen to Golden Tate touchdown that suddenly pulled the gap to 34-27 with seven minutes left in the contest.
The Irish got the ball back in the final minute with a chance to tie. On 4th and 10 at USC’s 29, Clausen connected with Robby Parris for a 1st down with 40 seconds left. The Trojans were flagged for a late hit, giving Notre Dame a first and goal at the 8.
"If you would have told me before the game, You can have the ball on the five yard line at the end of the game with a chance to tie or win, I probably would have taken that," Weis said after the game putting into consideration how good USC is.
The clock continued to tick and the Irish found themselves with the ball on the 4 with 4 seconds remaining as Clausen threw an incomplete pass as the clock expired. USC rushed the field in celebration.
But this is where the game took on a feel like 2005--like Notre Dame did then--USC prematurely rushed the field thinking they had won.
As it turned out, a review showed there was one second left and Notre Dame had one more chance. But Duval Kamara slipped on his route and Clausen’s pass attempt was incomplete and this time the game was over.
"I just went in there and said, You did well, keep your head up," Clausen said of his conversation in the locker room with Kamara. "Shouldn't have came down to that last play. There were a lot of opportunities in the game."
Notre Dame is now 3-2 in a five week stretch of wild finishes.
"When you're living on the edge, the way these games come down, when you're living on the edge, it's not going to turn out great every time," Weis said.
Clausen was 24 of 43 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. USC freshman QB Matt Barkley was 19 of 29 for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
USC led 13-7 at halftime. Notre Dame failed to convert on a 4th and 1 at the 27 as James Aldridge was stuffed. Barkley then threw a screen pass to Damien Williams, who went 41 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-7.
Notre Dame quickly responded. Clausen hit Golden Tate for a 45-yard touchdown to make it 20-14.
But USC answered right back to close the 3rd with major momentum. Anthony McCoy went 60 yards on a pass reception to the Irish 5-yard line. Allen Bradford rushed in for a touchdown to make it 27-14.
Joe McKnight added a touchdown early in the 4th to make it 34-14.
That's when Notre Dame began its comeback, coming up just short.
The Irish will look to bounce back next Saturday against Boston College. The Eagles have won six straight games against Notre Dame and are coming off a 52-20 win over NC State on Saturday.