Not all the old stories about the USC-Notre Dame football game involve touchdown passes or last-second field goals. As the Trojans and Fighting Irish prepared to renew their rivalry today, former players offered memories of a more personal nature -- some touching, some funny, others embarrassing -- in interviews with Times staff writer David Wharton.
Paul McDonald made his first trip to Notre Dame Stadium as a backup USC quarterback in 1977. That year, the Irish warmed up in traditional blue and gold, then came back for the kickoff in green jerseys.
“The crowd went crazy,” McDonald recalled. “It was almost like a carnival.”
But that wasn’t the end of the pregame surprises. Students in togas pulled a giant, crudely built Trojan horse onto the field.
“These little leprechauns were coming out of the horse,” McDonald said. “It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.”
Notre Dame rode the emotion of the day to a 49-19 upset of fifth-ranked USC. As time ran out, McDonald replaced starter Rob Hertel, taking the last snap of the game.
“The crowd emptied onto the field,” he said. “I just remember holding [guard] Brad Budde’s jersey as he weaved through the crowd, following him all the way to the locker room.”
Notre Dame defensive lineman Mike Golic had a more pleasant experience in his first trip to the Coliseum in 1982, even though the Irish lost to USC, 17-13.
Golic recalled hearing strains of “Conquest” during warmups. Like many players, Golic says he never paid attention to anything beyond the field, especially in rival stadiums. This time, he looked up.
“You see the band come marching down those steps,” he said, referring to the stadium’s peristyle end. “I actually thought to myself, ‘This is pretty cool.’ ”
The sophomore stopped and watched.
“I never did that any other time,” he said. “It made me think how big the rivalry was.”
For Anthony Munoz, the USC-Notre Dame rivalry evokes memories of not playing.
Before his Hall of Fame career in the NFL, Munoz was an injury-plagued offensive tackle for the Trojans, spending much of his college career on the sideline. He was sound for only one game against the Irish -- his sophomore season in 1977.
“Of course it was the only time we lost,” he said.
His freshman and junior seasons were marred by torn ligaments in his right knee. Most of his senior season was spent rehabilitating an injured left knee.
“Just sitting at home, wishing I was in it,” he recalled of watching the annual game. “It was agonizing. That’s why I went to USC, to get the chance to play against Notre Dame.”