Fighting Irish learned how to handle hype and expectation after unforced errors derailed 2011 game against Trojans.
On the eve of top-ranked Notre Dame's final regular season game of 2012 against the hated USC Trojans, the Fighting Irish are still thinking of a game from 2011. In last year's game against the Trojans, the first night game ever played at Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish lost, 31-17. The loss broke a four-game winning streak and dropped Notre Dame to 4-3 on the season.
Notre Dame's performance against USC was marred by a number of unforced Irish errors. Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley drove USC to a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, while the Irish managed just eight plays from scrimmage. A kick return for a touchdown allowed the Irish to cut the halftime lead to seven, but a Dayne Crist fumbled snap was recovered by the Trojans and returned for a touchdown to give USC a 24-10 third-quarter lead, a lead from which Notre Dame was never able to recover. A Tommy Rees interception in the fourth sealed the Trojan win.
Notre Dame learned from the loss, especially in preparing for pregame hype and high expectations. As JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago reports:
"Guys really learned that you can't get caught up in all the hype that's going in to the game," center Braxston Cave said. "Last year, it was our first night game, and we had new helmets and obviously the whole ND nation was coming down on you because they want this win so bad. I think a lot of guys got wrapped up in all of this and it really affected the way we played."
"We know we got one shot to get to 12-0, and if we don't stay focused and do our job then we have no chance of accomplishing that," Cave said.
The Irish, 11-0 and playing for a berth in the BCS National Championship Game, face the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday.