Streak Busters
College games that ended a long winning streak
November 21, 1931: Southern California @ Notre Dame
Anderson Makes Major Fourth QuarterMistake
Notre Dame rode a 26-game unbeaten streak into what was becoming its annual clash with the Southern California Trojans. After going 19-0 in 1929 and 1930, the Fighting Irish had been tied by Northwestern 0-0 in the second game of the '31 season. The last defeat had been at the hands of the Trojans in the last game of 1928, 27-14. Irish suc­cess had continued unabated after the loss of inspirational coach Knute Rockne in a plane crash earlier in the year. The transition had been seamless under Heartley "Hunk" Anderson, "Rockne's faithful assistant." The Fighting Irish had played their 1927 and '29 USC home games at Soldier Field in Chicago but now hosted the Trojans at their new 54,000-seat stadium.
USC was putting together an exceptional season itself with six straight victories after an opening loss to St. Mary's. The Trojans wanted revenge for what had happened the year before in L.A. The 1930 Trojans had gone into the game with an 8-1 record, outscoring opponents 382-39 with five shutouts. Yet Notre Dame had laid a whipping on them. En route to South Bend on the "Trojan Special," USC coach Howard Jones told reporters: "There is every reason to believe that the team we buck up against Saturday is much stronger than the one which trounced us 27-0 last year. ... We are in excellent shape physically, if that means anything, and we are ready to give them the best we have." FB Gus Shaver had a slight foot infection that was not expected to keep him benched at South Bend Saturday.
USC scout Aubrey Devine put the "hat" on Rockne's replacement by telling reporters, "Notre Dame is so good that Hunk Anderson could lick any team he has played, Northwestern excepted, with his second string. It is impossible to set a fool-proof defense for the Irish because they are such a versatile squad. Just when you think you have them stopped, they break out in another direction."
The Trojans almost lost a player who would play a key role in the clash with the Irish on the long train ride to Chicago. As Rockne did in 1926 and '28 on the way to Los Angeles, Jones planned several stops on the route to hold workouts. During a practice at Tucson AZ, T Johnny Baker, recovering from a bum knee, made a mental mistake on his defensive assignment. Jones berated him to the point where Baker, as he admitted later, almost quit the team and headed back to Los Angeles."
The press portrayed the Trojans' first visit to Notre Dame Stadium as "The Clash of the Colossi" for the national championship. More than 150 sportswriters requested press credentials from Notre Dame.

L-R: Hunk Anderson, Howard Jones, Gameday program
The game drew the largest radio audience in broadcast history to that time–an estimated 10 million listeners hearing Ted Husing's play-by-play on nearly a hundred radio stations.
The visitors started strong on their first possession, driving from their 44 to the three. But James Musick fumbled, and Joe Kurth recovered for the Irish at the two.
Neither team came close to scoring again until late in the first half when Notre Dame drove 55y to take a 7-0 lead. Marchy Schwartz completed the Fighting Irish's only pass of the day to Charles Jaskwhich for 26y to the SC 18. Three runs made it first-and-goal at the four. It took four more cracks at the line, but Steve Banas plowed over from the 1' line. Notre Dame 7-0
The Irish doubled their lead on their first possession of the second half after receiving a punt at their 47. Schwartz, Banas, and Ray Brancheau took turns running the ball with Banas getting the biggest gain, 26y to the three. He lost seven on the next snap, but Schwartz picked him up by scoring on the next play. 14-0 Notre Dame
After an exchange of punts, the Men of Troy started from their 48 on a 14-play drive that reached the ND 15 as the third period ended.
USC E Ray Sparling took a lateral on an end-around play to the one. From there, Shaver, bad foot and all, scored. However, Joe Kurth blocked Johnny Baker's extra point try. Notre Dame 14 USC 6
The PAT miss made Trojan fans at the game and listening on radio shiver. USC had lost three of the five games played in the series with Notre Dame by a single point. With no two-point conversion available, USC would need two scores to win even if they held the Irish scoreless the rest of the way.

USC-Notre Dame action
The ball carrier is from USC. Notre Dame has the higher hip pads.
The game changed when Anderson removed most of his regulars. The subs were fresh and considered by many the equal of most first teams across the nation. However, the move proved to be a major mistake. The rules in effect at the time dictated that players who left the field could not return until the next quarter. So the Irish starters were done for the day. Hunk later said that he was practicing good sportsmanship by trying not to run up the score.
USC soon had the ball back and got a big break when interference was called on a pass receiver to put the ball at the ND 24. Five plays later, Shaver scored again on a beautiful 10y dash around left end. This time Baker kicked the point. Notre Dame 14 USC 13

More action
Anderson instructed his men to run their regular Notre Dame Box offense, grind out first downs, and run out the clock. But with so many first stringers on the sidelines, the Irish stuggled to move the ball, and the Trojans regained possession after a punt on the ND 39. But they immediately lost it on a fumble. The Irish made one first down to use up some time before punting to the SC 27 with four minutes left in the game. Jones sent in three fresh players, two tackles and an end.
On third-and-10, Shaver faded back to the 10 and unleashed a bomb. Sparling, running at full speed with Jaskwhich right behind him, dove and caught the ball at the ND 40. It was USC's first completion of the day in 11 attempts. Two plays later, Shaver threw another pass, this one to Bob Hall, the new end, for 24y to the 17. Two and a half minutes remained.
An offside penalty on the play moved the Trojans 5y closer although the down counted. Sparling lost a yard on an end-around, and a pass fell incomplete to make it fourth down at the 12. Not certain that his signal-caller was going for the field goal, Jones sent in a substitute to make sure. But captain Stanley Williamson waved the sub back to the sideline. QB Orville Mohler had already called for the field goal.
Mohler knelt at the 23 to take the snap as Baker, who had nearly quit the team a few days earlier and missed his first extra point try, got ready. Perfect snap and placement. Perfect kick, right through the uprights. Afterward, Mohler said, "Baker and I have been practicing that play all year. I knew if it failed I'd be the goat, and we would be licked, but old 'Bake' doesn't miss on those short ones. I knew he wouldn't fail me." USC 16 Notre Dame 14
One minute remained. Enough time for a Notre Dame miracle? Not on your life. Gordon Clark intercepted a desperation pass to hand the Irish their first loss since December 1, 1928. The victor that day? Southern California
Many Irish fans, including New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, wept. A larger contingent left the stadium convinced Notre Dame needed a new coach.
A disheveled Jones was far from his normal reserved self. He shook hands with each player and gushed, "It was the greatest team in the world."
Jubilant Trojans fans invaded the USC locker room to congratulate Baker, who was in the shower. The fans danced with the naked, dripping Baker.
When the USC train pulled into Los Angeles Tuesday morning, thousands of cheering boosters greeted them including the Trojan Band. A ticker tape parade in the downtown area followed. An estimated 300,000 people enjoyed a celebration unlike any the City of Angels had ever seen.
A movie of the game played at the Loew's State Theatre, the top downtown movie house, broke all the house records for attendance.
The Trojans won their remaining two games to finish 9-1, then beat Tulane in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship as determined by the Dickinson System. That made it three years in a row that the winner of the USC-Notre Dame game won the national championship. The trophy awarded to USC bore the name of Knute Rockne.
The 1931 USC-Notre Dame game is considered a turning point for both schools. The Trojans won their second national championship in four years under Jones and would win two more before his premature death in 1941. On the other hand, Notre Dame started a downward slide as more of Rockne's players graduated each year. Anderson compiled a 16-9-2 record in three years. It wasn't until Frank Leahy returned to his alma mater in 1941 that the Fighting Irish regained national prominence.