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Pac-10: Trojans take fight to Irish

Carson Palmer passes for 425 of Southern Cal's 610 yards in a 44-13 rout of Notre Dame.

©Associated Press

December 1, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Carson Palmer threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns, and Southern California's defense held Notre Dame to 109 yards as the Trojans defeated the Fighting Irish 44-13 Saturday night.

With Palmer passing for the most yards given up by Notre Dame, Southern California rolled up 610 total yards -- the most by any team against the Irish.

Early in the fourth quarter, Trojans fans chanted the inevitable "Overrated! Overrated!" at the Notre Dame players.

Freshman Mike Williams caught 10 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns as USC snapped a three-game winning streak by Notre Dame in the rivalry, which began in 1926.

Palmer completed 32 of 46 passes with two interceptions. Fullback Malaefou MacKenzie had two touchdown receptions, and Justin Fargas ran for 120 yards on 20 carries and had four catches for 41 yards as the Trojans won their seventh in a row.

The Trojan defense was just as dominant. Notre Dame's Carlyle Holiday was 10-of-29 for 70 yards with three interceptions.

Although the Trojans and Irish closed out their regular seasons, they must wait until after next weekend's games to learn which bowls they'll play in.

USC still has a shot at the Rose Bowl, or it could get a Bowl Championship Series at-large berth. Despite the lopsided loss to the Trojans, Notre Dame still could get a BCS at-large spot.

The Trojans' 10 regular-season wins were their most since they went 10-1 in 1988, and this is the first year they've beaten crosstown rival UCLA (52-21) and Notre Dame during the same season in 21 years.

Notre Dame, which has regained national prominence in Tyrone Willingham's first year as coach, finished with its most regular-season wins since an 11-1 mark in 1993.

With the Trojans blending short passes with Fargas' rushing, USC kept the Irish defense on its heels for most of the game.

Up 17-13 at halftime, the Trojans extended their lead on Palmer's third scoring throw, a pass in the flat that MacKenzie turned into a 15-yard touchdown 2:59 into the third quarter.

Ryan Killeen added field goals of 27 and 29 yards later in the quarter, then Sultan McCullough scored on an 11 yard-run three minutes into the fourth quarter to put USC up 37-13.

The Trojans led at halftime on Palmer's two touchdown passes to Williams, and Killeen's 22-yard field goal. USC outgained the Irish 328-94 in the first half, but the Trojans' mistakes enabled Notre Dame to stay close.

Southern California lost a fumble that set up a field goal, had a punt blocked for a touchdown, was penalized six times for 35 yards, and Palmer threw the first of his two interceptions.

Notre Dame's only touchdown came when Carlos Pierre-Antoine blocked Tom Malone's punt and recovered it in the end zone. Pierre-Antoine was credited with a 21-yard return on the touchdown, which gave the Irish a 13-10 lead with 1:07 left in the first half.

The Trojans came right back to retake the lead for good. Palmer and Williams hooked up on their second scoring play, a 19-yard pass five seconds before halftime to cap a 75-yard drive that took just 1:02.

The Trojans went up 7-6 on Palmer's pass to Williams, who was wide open in the end zone, on third and 3 from the Notre Dame 6 with four minutes gone in the second quarter.

Notre Dame led early on Nicholas Setta's two field goals in a 24-second span late in the first quarter.

After Killeen was low and under the crossbar on a 35-yard field-goal try midway through the opening quarter, the Irish drove 63 yards and Setta made a 34-yarder. He quickly added a 32-yarder after the Trojans' Hershel Dennis fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Pat Ryan recovered at the USC 21.

The Trojans find out next weekend whether they will represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl. USC will get the Rose Bowl berth if Washington State, which also has one conference loss, loses to UCLA Saturday.

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