Trojans shows off resilience against Fighting Irish

The USC football team might be batting .500 when it comes to their overall 2019 regular season record, but the Trojans just as well could be hitting 1.000 when it comes to heart and battling through adversity. HItting the road to take on No. 8 Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, was just the latest test for USC.

There has been quite a few of those for the Trojans, perhaps none bigger than losing starting quarterback TJ Daniels in the first game of the season. No doubt that USC coach Clay Helton and the Trojans miss Daniels. But since he went down, reserve quarterbacks Kedon Slovis and Matt Fink have played impressively.

It was Fink, sitting at the third-string position, who led USC to their upset victory against then-ranked No. 10 Utah at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in September. Coincidently, Fink took over in relief of Slovis, who was knocked out of the contest with a concussion. Since then, though, Slovis has pretty much balled out for the Trojans.

Against the fighting Irish amid tough circumstances of dealing with a rambunctious crowd, Slovis nearly led the Trojans to a comeback that would have shocked both Notre Dame and the rest of the nation. Scoring just three points through the first two quarters, Slovis and the Trojans put up 24 points in the second half against a wilting Notre Dame defense.

But as it was, the Fighting Irish managed to stave off the huge upset defeat at the hands of their West Coast rival by adding 13 points (total) in the third and fourth quarters to edge USC, 30-27. To put it mildly, Notre Dame walked off the field with their chinny-chin chin up only because the Trojans ran out of time.

USC defenders putting the hammer down on a Notre Dame offensive player. No. 8 Notre Dame defeated USC, 30-27. Photo credit: John McGillen

USC, paced by some of the 255 passing yards that Slovis accounted for, scored two touchdowns in the final period to put a scare into Notre Dame. While it appeared that Notre Dame had stepped off the gas pedal from its once double-digit lead, the Trojans kept pushing the envelope, not conceding defeat until the clock finally ticked down to zero in the fourth quarter.

“The kids were just fighting their hearts out,” USC Clay Helton said, according to the USC Athletics football webpage. “That’s who they are and that’s who they will continue to be. We fight for SC. We fight for our family.”

USC running back Markese Stepp, who rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown on 10 caries, sounded just as confident as Helton about the team’s ability to not give up against any opponent, regardless of ranking.

“We don’t back down from nothing,” Stepp said, the USC Athletics football webpage recorded.

This could be evidence from the fact that the Trojans, even with an overall record of 3-3, have some of the most talented players in the country. The Trojans are a resilient bunch of players with a brotherhood that’s real strong.

Prior to the Trojans playing Notre Dame, USC cornerback Greg Johnson talked about this bonding experience.

Photo credit: John McGillen

“Were a young core with strong leaders,” Johnson told News4usonline reporter Khari Jones Jr.. “We just try to hold each accountable day in and day out. We bring our best work everyday. We ask the questions we need to ask in the meeting rooms and just look out for each other. It’s a brotherhood here at SC.”

USC defensive stud Christian Rector echoed his teammate’s thoughts about the team’s unity and leadership parameters.

“Playing with a team like this, we all hold each accountable,” Rector said. “If I see a player slacking off, I let them know. If they see me slacking off, they let me know. It’s really like a brotherhood.” With that leadership and brotherhood they understand what it takes to be successful. When things are not going as planned, they try their best to figure things out.”

The Trojans may have some doubters but it’s still so early in the season. However, USC still have the opportunity to do something unique this season, especially with the Pac-12 Conference in full play. Homecoming week will feature the Trojans going up against Arizona at the United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“We still have the opportunity to go and win the Pac-12 South if we do our jobs correctly,” Helton said. “This is a great team. They are the definition of Fight On. And they don’t know how to quit.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Here we go with a 7 game stretch. They have truly something special to play for down this stretch. To go win the Pac-12 and be Pac-12 champions and play in the Rose Bowl. That opportunity is right there.”

Don’t expect the Trojans to quit this year. USC have pulled off two upsets this year with wins against Utah and Stanford.

Reporter Khari Jones contributed to this story

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