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On This Date in Sports November 30, 1974: Trojan Explosion

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Trailing rival Notre Dame 24-0 late in the second quarter, USC finishes the game with 55 unanswered points to win the game 55-24. A big part of the comeback as Anthony Davis, who scored late in the first half and started the second half with a 102-yard return. Davis would score four touchdowns to spark the comeback win. USC would go on to claim a share of the National Championship.

Meeting at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the 1974 battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh had extra stakes, as Notre Dame was ranked #5, while USC was ranked sixth entering the game. This made the winner of the game a National Championship contender entering Bowl season. Notre Dame coached by Ara Parseghian had won a share of the 1973 National Championship, while USC had claimed the National Title all to themselves in 1972.

Notre Dame entered the game with a record of 9-1, having lost earlier in the season to Purdue, while USC was 8-1-1, losing at the start of the season to Arkansas while playing California to a tie. The Irish dominated the first half jumping out to a 24-0 lead. Nothing seemed to be going right for the Trojans until the last moments of the second quarter when they went down the field in 53, to put some points on the board as Anthony Davis reeled in a scoring pass from Pat Haden.

USC was to get the ball in the second half and continued the momentum as Anthony Davis returned the kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. Davis also scored on the next to possession as the USC scored 35 points in the third quarter to surge to a 41-24 lead. The onslaught continued into the fourth quarter as J.K. McKay, son of coach John McKay caught two touchdown passes from Pat Haden. In fact, all 55 points the Trojans scored in a 17-minute stretch from the end of the first half to two minutes into the fourth quarter. The Trojans’ defense played a significant role in the comeback as Charles Phillips had a pair of interceptions, and Kevin Bruce caused a pair of Irish fumbles.

USC would go on to beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl 18-17, while Notre Dame defeated Alabama 13-11 in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma was unbeaten and was ranked #1 in the AP, but was on probation and not allowed to play in a bowl game. Despite this, they won a share of the National Championship, the last to do so without a Bowl win. The coaches poll made the Sooners ineligible opening the door for a team to share the National Championship, which ended up being the USC Trojans.