USC stuffs Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Southern California found the cure for its recent woes: Notre Dame.

No. 13 USC had struggled through three straight Pac-10 games, including a stunning loss to Stanford. The Trojans got back some of their injured players Saturday against the Fighting Irish and played like the team that began the season ranked No. 1, beating Notre Dame 38-0.

"We've been pretty well banged up, got shocked a few weeks back, and it was really important for us to gain our stride," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We felt coming into this week we were getting stronger."

Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes, two on short drives after Irish miscues, to pace the Trojans to their largest margin of victory in the 79-game history of the storied rivalry.

"It's a butt kicking today," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said.

Notre Dame can still claim the most-lopsided victory in the series, a 51-0 win over the Trojans in 1966. That's surely little consolation to the Irish and their fans, as Notre Dame trudges through a horrible season.

"You see where they are; you see where we are," Weis said.

"We're at different ends of the spectrum at this point."

The Irish are at the wrong end compared to a lot of teams. They also lost 38-0 to Michigan earlier this season. The two 38-point losses are tied for the eighth worst losses in Notre Dame history.

It was the worst Irish home loss, though, since they were beaten 40-0 by top-ranked Oklahoma in 1956.

When asked if he believes the Irish have hit rock bottom, Weis chose his words carefully.

"I'm going to answer that very cautiously, because I don't want to be called sarcastic using New Jersey rhetoric," he said. "So let me just say people better enjoy it now, have their fun now."

The Trojans certainly did.

Making his second start for the injured John David Booty, Sanchez got off to a shaky start as he had to call timeout twice during the first four plays because of confusion.

It's all about the finish, though, and in the end he was 21-of-38 for 235 yards and four TDs, with no interceptions or sacks.

"I felt real comfortable and calm," Sanchez said. "I got the jitters out last week. I felt like I could just go and play."

USC (6-1) won its sixth straight over the Irish, the longest streak for USC against Notre Dame. The Irish won 11 straight from 1983-93.

The Irish dropped to 1-7 for just the second time, matching the 1960 start. They are also assured of their 13th losing season since they started playing football in 1887, and the fourth losing season since 1999. The fourth consecutive home loss tied a school record.

"Unfortunately, it got out of hand and we just didn't make any plays," said Evan Sharpley, who made his first start at quarterback.

Sharpley, starting ahead of Jimmy Clausen was sacked five times, and was 17-of-33 for 117 yards.

The game was competitive for a while. The Trojans didn't go ahead 14-0 until Allen Bradford caught an 8-yard TD pass with 3:55 left in the second quarter. Then the Trojans quickly turned it into a blowout.

The game was a stark contrast to the classic two years ago when top-ranked USC beat ninth-ranked Notre Dame 34-31 in the closing seconds as the teams traded great plays in the final minutes.

Notre Dame was held to 48 rushing yards on 30 carries, although those stats were slightly skewed because of the five sacks. The Irish have now given up a school record 39 sacks, one more than in 2002, and still have four games left to play.

USC had 462 yards total offense compared with 165 yards for Notre Dame. The Trojans, who have been struggling with injuries, got back several key players who had missed time, including tailback Stafon Johnson, who rushed for 47 yards on eight carries.

"We feel like we're regaining our momentum again," Carroll said. "We got whacked pretty good there for a while, and unfortunately we had to give up a game during the process. Now that we're back on track, this could be very pivotal for us."