USC Falls To Notre Dame, 38-21

Nov. 25, 2000

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    LOS ANGELES -- Notre Dame's third starting quarterback of the seasonproved to be the best one.

    Freshman Matt LoVecchio ran for two touchdowns and engineered an efficientoffense, and the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish turned two blocked punts intotouchdowns and a pair of interceptions into two more scores Saturday in beatingmistake-prone USC 38-21.

    By winning for the seventh straight time since LoVecchio became theirstarting quarterback, the Irish (9-2) are in line for a Bowl SeriesChampionship game - likely the Fiesta Bowl - and a $13.5 million payday. NotreDame was 5-7 a year ago.

    The Trojans (5-7), meanwhile, endured their first losing season 1991, andjust their third in the last 39 years.

    It's likely the game was the last one at USC for coach Paul Hackett, whoseteams have a 19-18 record in three seasons. It's been speculated that Hackett,who has two years remaining on his contract, will be fired as early as Sunday.

    The win was the first for the Irish over USC in Los Angeles since 1992.Losses to the Trojans at the Coliseum in 1996 and 1998 cost them lucrative bowlbids, but it was a different story on this sunny day.

    LoVecchio completed 9 of 14 passes for 142 yards, and rushed for 45 yards on11 carries. He scored on a 13-yard run early in the second quarter that snappeda 7-all tie and put the Irish ahead for good, and a 1-yarder on fourth-and-goallate in the third period.

    Tony Fisher gained 71 yards on 15 carries, and Julius Jones picked up 71yards on 20 carries for the Irish.

    USC's Carson Palmer was 17-of-35 for 251 yards, but was intercepted twiceand lost a fumble, giving the Trojans 36 turnovers this season compared to 17by the opposition.

    The Irish didn't commit a turnover, leaving them with only eight compared to22 by their opponents.

    Notre Dame extended a 21-14 halftime lead to two touchdowns on LoVecchio'ssecond TD, which came five plays after Glenn Earl's interception at the NotreDame 48.

    USC drew within seven points on Palmer's 10-yard pass to Antoine Harris onthe first play of the fourth quarter, but the Irish made it 31-21 on a 39-yardfield goal by Nick Setta with 12:09 to play.

    The Trojans then moved to the Notre Dame 39, but Palmer was then sackedtwice in a row and USC wound up punting. The Irish then moved 80 yards - all onthe ground - for the clinching touchdown, a 2-yard run by Jones with 2:57 left.

    Notre Dame took a 7-0 lead on Terrance Howard's 1-yard run, capping a40-yard drive after David Givens partially blocked Mike MacGillivray's punt,which traveled only 14 yards.

    USC tied the game on a 3-yard bootleg by Palmer to cap a 65-yard drive, butNotre Dame scored twice in a span of less than four minutes early in the secondperiod for a 21-7 lead.

    First, Chad DeBolt blocked a punt by MacGillivray, and the Irish needed onlyfour plays plus a roughing the passer penalty to move 50 yards for the go-aheadtouchdown, scored by LoVecchio.

    Three plays later, Tony Driver returned an interception 43 yards to theTrojans' 19, setting up a 1-yard scoring run by Fisher.

    On USC's next possession, Notre Dame coach Bob Davie came on the field andhad to be restrained after a defensive holding penalty on a third-downincompletion. Palmer threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Kelly on the verynext play.

    The game was played before crowd of 81,342. The Irish lead the series withUSC 41-26-5.

    AP Sports Writer

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