Trojans oblivious to Notre Dame rivalry

first_imgLOS ANGELES — When Lou Holtz coached Notre Dame, he gave players a quiz on the Irish-USC rivalry the week of the game. Contrast that with USC wide receiver Patrick Turner’s view of college football’s greatest intersectional matchup. “I know it’s big because I play the NCAA 2006 (video game) and it’s listed as a rivalry game,’ Turner said. USC coach Pete Carroll laughed at that comment Thursday, but he also enjoyed the lack of awareness because it’s the mind-set he wants. “This (rivalry) doesn’t mean anything to these guys,’ he said. “They don’t need to be fired up extra. That’s not what you want to do. It doesn’t work.’ Carroll loathes making one game more important and never mentioned the significance of playing Notre Dame during team meetings this week. “He doesn’t bring it up or if he did, I wasn’t paying attention,’ offensive lineman Winston Justice said. “I think of Notre Dame as a normal team. The importance of the rivalry doesn’t mean anything.’ It’s hard to argue with that approach, considering Carroll defeated Notre Dame the past three years by an identical 31 points. In fact, blowouts are probably the only real memory most of the Trojans have of Notre Dame. They sure aren’t experts in the storied tradition between the schools. For the past three years, the lobby in Heritage Hall showcased the Shillelagh, a wooden Gaelic war club that features rubies for each USC victory and emeralds for each Notre Dame win. center_img Most players are unaware of the foot-long club even though they walk past it several times a day. “What’s that?’ defensive end Jeff Schweiger said. “All I know is that this is some type of rivalry. I don’t worry. It’s just football.’ And this comes from a player actively recruited by Notre Dame. “They recruited me but I didn’t take a trip there,’ Schweiger said. “I didn’t really like (former coach Tyrone) Willingham. He seemed too nonchalant.’ Justice never heard of the Shillelagh either, but like most USC players, he has one strong image of Notre Dame. “I saw Rudy,’ he said. “It’s a pretty good movie.’ Schweiger said he’s heard the famous Notre Dame saying, “Win one for the Gipper.’ It refers to Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne telling his team at the 1928 Army game that a former player, George Gipp, said on his deathbed to “when things look real tough’ to “win for me.’ “I remember that line in Rudy,’ Schweiger said. Not everyone is ignorant of the rivalry. USC linebacker Brian Cushing knows the tradition because he nearly committed to the Irish and grew up in New Jersey. And center Ryan Kalil is Catholic and attended Servite High in Anaheim. “I’m pretty familiar with the rivalry,’ Kalil said. “Everybody’s seen `Rudy.’ It’s a great tradition. Everyone talks about the hype and my first time there, it was a cool place. The fans are awesome.’ Kalil knows Notre Dame leads the series 42-29-5 but said, “I only care about our reign here.’ He also embraces Carroll’s laid- back attitude toward the rivalry, because he remembers Servite placing too much emphasis on its game with arch-rival Mater Dei of Santa Ana, a game Kalil never won. “My senior year, we were better than them but we put more energy into the rivalry than the game itself,’ Kalil said. “They ended up winning. “One of the reasons for success here is we don’t care about who we play. It’s never been about anything the other team does.’ But Kalil is in the minority with his knowledge. Freshman cornerback Kevin Thomas grew up in St. Louis, but said he never heard of Rockne, the Shillelagh or “Win one for the Gipper.’ “The rich tradition is new to me,’ Thomas said. “I’m from the Midwest, I wasn’t a USC fan. But I hadn’t heard of those things either.’ Scott Wolf can be reached at (818) 713-3607. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img