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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame players prepare for first trip to USC, Coliseum

November 23, 2022

USC’s fight song “Fight On” echoed from the loudspeakers inside the Irish Athletic Center at the end of Notre Dame’s practice on Tuesday evening. 

It’s far from surprising that the coaching staff would play an opponent's fight song, especially ahead of a big road game. They want to prepare players for the sounds they’ll hear on Saturday. 

What’s a bit odd is that most of them were unfamiliar with the melody.

“I knew we were going to be playing a fight song just because we're trying to get used to being out there in that environment,” running back Chris Tyree said. “If you were to play it before practice, I wouldn't have told you that that was USC's fight song.”

How could Tyree, a junior at Notre Dame, not know “Fight On”?

Well, that’s because he’s never been to the LA Memorial Coliseum before. The last Irish trip to Los Angeles was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means the team hasn’t played out there since the 24-17 victory over the Trojans in 2018 that sent Notre Dame to its first College Football Playoff berth. 

“It's huge, right?” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. “I don't know if our guys fully know that. It just seems weird we haven't played there since 2018.”

Even those who’ve faced USC might have fond associations with “Fight On” because it’s only been accompanied by winning during their tenure. The Trojans last defeated Notre Dame at the Coliseum in 2016 when Josh Lugg and Avery Davis were still seniors in high school. 

Despite a four-game winning streak, the No. 15 Irish (8-3) are currently 5.5-point underdogs against No. 6 USC (10-1), and this time a Trojan victory would keep their chances of a playoff berth alive. 

It seems this year’s game is hitting a little bit differently, even for the coaches, and it’s not just because Saturday’s game is between two top 15 teams.

"It's unique because when you play USC during the middle of the season,” coach Marcus Freeman said, “it's a little bit different than going out there and playing the last game of the year.”

It won’t, however, be Freeman’s first trip to The Coliseum.

"I played out there in 2008 when I was at Ohio State,” Freeman said, “but to be a part of this rivalry for the last game of the year and there's a lot on the line for both teams and this is a huge rivalry for us that goes back many years to the 1920s.”

Freeman and his Buckeyes lost 35-3 that day, so of course, the Fighting Irish head coach is hoping for a more fruitful return trip.

Those with connections to USC appear to be the most excited about the matchup.

"Funny enough, my mom went to USC,” linebacker JD Bertrand said. “I grew up hearing the fight song and stuff like that. She's Irish all the way now and has told me that she's so thankful that I went here.”

Others are from California and played with or against current USC players growing up.

“I know their cornerback Mekhi Blackmon,” cornerback TaRiq Bracy said. “I played against him in high school. He’s doing well. He’s from East Palo Alto. I have family that’s from there.”

The Irish lead the series 50-37-5.

The 93rd meeting between two historic programs could be a classic. Despite their excitement, the players will do their best to stay in the moment and treat the Coliseum just like any other Stadium. 

“As far as the stadium goes, we’ve played in a lot of cool stadiums since we’ve been here,” quarterback Drew Pyne said. “I have a routine that I do. We’ll visit the stadium probably on Friday and I’ll get accustomed to the stadium. It’s a great game, it’s a great tradition.

“However, I’m going to approach it the same way I’ve approached every game since I’ve been here.”

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