Sunday, October 16

IRISH LOSE 34-31 IN WANING SECONDS AGAINST USC

They had to clear the playing field at legendary Notre Dame Stadium late yesterday afternoon -- not of the debris often hurled in the wake of a stunning upset victory, or of fallen goal posts toppled to the ground by the zealous, victory-charged throngs; but of gold-shirted students, fanatical fans, coaches and trainers, the ghosts of the Four Horsemen, who once owned that gridiron, and Irish players in kelly green jerseys who had cleared the benches and rushed the field in victory celebration when the clock ran down to 00.00.

But, it wasn't to be. Like a bad dream, it wasn't to be. Head Coach Charlie Weis, who had raised his arms above his head and walked out triumphant onto the same field Knute Rockne's feet had touched so many times in sweet victory, was forced by the zebras to retreat to the sidelines and watch a nightmare unfold, as officials returned 7 precious seconds to the clock and USC's Heisman-winning QB, Matt Leinart, then contorted his body (with Heisman-candidate Reggie Bush pushing him from behind) to get the ball into the end zone on a last ditch quarterback sneak from the one-yard line -- a play that preserved what is now a 28-game win streak for the Trojans and their start-of-season #1-ranking.

It was as if the game itself had been somehow yanked right off the field and dropped onto a Hollywood film lot with the improbable ending needing a dozen takes to get it picture-perfect right. It was as if QB Leinart had looked the Notre Dame defense in the eye and said in answer to their collective determination to win a football classic that would earn a favored place in Fighting Irish lore, Frankly, I don't give a damn.