USC 34, Notre Dame 31
It's over 24 hours after since the last second ticked off the stadium clock (for the second time) in South Bend and I can still hardly believe what I saw in the last few minutes of that game.
From friends to the news writers to the network and cable sports networks, across the board people are calling it "the greatest game in the USC-Notre Dame rivalry," "the greatest college (or pro) football game of the year (decade or century, you choose)," "the greatest thing since sliced bread" and none of them are wrong.
Ultimately, it's how you finish that people remember. Thirty years from now, no one will be showing the bad passes from Matt, the passes dropped by the receivers, or the near crippling penalties.
They will show Leinart bouncing off the pack less than a yard from the end zone, less than 7 seconds left in the game, and then spinning to his left, with an assist from Reggie Bush, making one of the most awkward and ugly backwards falls into the end zone you'll ever see.
Yet it was still beautiful. Usually it's a graceful catch or a skillful, defense-shedding run up the field that is described as beautiful, but somehow that stumbling backwards tumble was a thing of beauty and a step into legend.
Why did Matt Leinart come back?
This is why he came back.
He went from USC football hero to Trojan legend in four seconds and one yard.
No amount of money could buy what he earned for himself and gave to every Trojan on Saturday.
Just ask the Irish. They'd pay anything for those seven seconds never to have been put back on the clock.
Heisman Trophy winners and Heisman Trophy contenders, 300 pound lineman and 170 pound assistant coaches, all men's men could not help but shed tears of joy as time expired and the Trojans held on to a three point victory.
A look at Leinart's stats for the day show that he ran 6 times for a total of -11 yards. That's not unusual for a quarterback who doesn't run much, those sacks add up. In this case, however, the negative yardage seems more appropriate in that he scored his lone touchdown, the game winner, going into the end zone backwards.
Sure, I've mentioned Matt a lot to this point, but he's not the only man on the field. Without Reggie Bush, USC does not win this game. Without Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd, USC does not win this game. Without Keith Rivers, Oscar Lua, Frostee Rucker and Lajuan Ramsey, USC does not win this game.
Oh yeah... there's another guy I should mention: Head coach Pete Carroll. Without Carroll, USC is not the team it is today. He has, more than any single person, orchestrated the glory of the current dynasty.
It'd be easy to go on and on about this game. Two of Reggie Bush's touchdowns, rushing 36 yards for one and 45 for the other. A sweet pick by Keith Rivers. The clutch pass by Leinart and catch by Jarrett on fourth and nine during that last drive. It's late, so I'll come back later and put up some pictures and maybe say a little more about it. My final word: Wow.
...and two more words: