20 years ago, USC used Notre Dame as a catapult to greatness

The USC Trojans are rising to the top tier of college football in Year 1 under Lincoln Riley. It has to be noted that 20 years ago, USC rose from the ashes under coach Pete Carroll. One of the central moments in the Trojans’ ascendance was their 2002 blowout of Notre Dame, which sealed the Heisman Trophy Award for quarterback Carson Palmer and sent the Men of Troy to Miami for the Orange Bowl against Iowa.

Courtesy of college football historian Chris Kreager, here are some notable facts in the sections below about the 2002 USC-Notre Dame game, the 2002 USC team, the Pete Carroll era, the 2003 Orange Bowl win over Iowa, and more:

(h/t Matt Zemek of Trojans Wire)

BACKGROUND DETAILS

 

“Notre Dame fell from BCS at-large slot to a not-marquee Gator Bowl matchup against another 10-win team: the N.C. State Wolfpack led by Philip Rivers,” Kreager wrote.

THAT'S AN AVERAGE OF MORE THAN 26 POINTS PER VICTORY

More from Chris Kreager:

From 2002-2008, USC won seven games versus Notre Dame by a combined 186 points.

MORE ON USC'S DOMINANCE OF NOTRE DAME FROM 2002-2008

 

 

Only the legendary 2005 game (34-31) and 2009’s 34-27 win (the last SC-ND matchup between Carroll and Charlie Weis) were decided by fewer than 20 points

30 OR MORE

 

 

Most of the games were lopsided (2003 and 2004 were also 31-point wins, 2006-2008 by a combined 93 points).

COMPENSATING FOR NOTRE DAME'S DOMINANCE IN THE 1990S

 

The 2002 Notre Dame game didn’t just mark a true sign of USC’s impending greatness. It started an eight-game win streak by the Trojans over the Fighting Irish

2002 ASCENDANCE

 

 

USC finished No. 3 in the final post-bowl polls, behind only national champion Ohio State and runner-up Miami.

2002 USC-NOTRE DAME

 

 

It marked the Trojans’ seventh win over a top-25 team in the 2002 season (not including the Week 1 win over an Auburn team that finished No. 14 in the final AP Poll).

2003 ORANGE BOWL

 

 

The Trojans ran for over 200 yards, gaining a 16-minute advantage in time of possession and a 38-17 win.

2003 ORANGE BOWL DOMINANCE

 

 

Justin Fargas ran for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Sultan McCullough ran for another score

COMPLETE PERFORMANCE VS IOWA IN MIAMI

 

 

Palmer’s numbers–303 yards, one touchdown–didn’t match his Notre Dame output but were still very strong. The USC running game more than stepped up as well.

CONTINUED EXCELLENCE

 

 

USC showed that its 601-yard explosion versus Notre Dame was not an outlier. They put up 550 yards on the Hawkeyes.

NOT EVEN CLOSE

 

 

The Trojans gave up the first and last points of the 2003 Orange Bowl game: an opening kickoff TD return and a last-minute Brad Banks touchdown.

In between, the Trojans hammered Iowa 38-3.

WILL IT BE TRUE FOR CALEB WILLIAMS THIS YEAR?

 

 

The 2002 USC-Notre Dame game was Carson Palmer’s signature Heisman Trophy moment.

CARSON PALMER

 

 

“While he already had five wins that season against teams which were ranked in the top 25 at the time (one week prior, he threw for four touchdowns against UCLA), a prime-time performance on national TV against
storied Notre Dame got a lot of people’s attention,” Kreager said.

USC PLAYED EVERYONE UNDER PETE CARROLL

 

 

With Palmer’s superb season against a rough schedule–only Stanford did not make a bowl game–he indeed proved his Heisman worthiness.

SECOND-HALF SURGE VS NOTRE DAME

 

 

USC’s three second-half touchdowns were part of long, sustained drives; the Trojans broke open what had been a 10-10 tie at halftime

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire