I refuse to admit that the Trojans won this game. I watched it from the stands, and I've watched countless replays over the past few days.
I don't like complaining about calls that decide games, and there have been countless times where I've felt that Notre Dame was jobbed, but have conceded that officiating is part of the game, and that we should be content with the outcome.
I can't do that here.
I watched Notre Dame win that game. Southern Cal wouldn't go quietly into the night, and they are a worthy adversary, deserving of praise. However, Notre Dame won that game. The bend-don't-break defense of Notre Dame allowed the Trojans to get into scoring position, but they stopped the Trojans on their goal line. Twice.
The refs, after the first stop, went out of their way to kick the fans off the field and put time back on the clock for the Trojans to try again, and spotted the ball on the 1-inch line to make it easy for the Trojans. Okay, no problem. If they go for the win, all Notre Dame has to do is stop them.
And stop them Notre Dame did.
Leinart took the snap from center, and tried to push forward. The Notre Dame line stiffened, however, and pushed him back, keeping him out of the endzone.
Then the Trojans committed a penalty. Reggie Bush, watching his Heisman hopes pirouetting toward the ground, pushed Leinart into the end zone. In case the Pac-10 officials don't know this, assisting the runner is a 10-yard penalty. An offensive player is not allowed to assist the runner by pushing or pulling them forward. The officials sure took their time in making sure that the Trojans got another chance at the end zone, but none of them bothered to pull out the flag when Reggie Bush blatantly and admittedly pushed Leinart into the end zone.
I am not an official, have not been trained by the NCAA. But I know the rules of the game. And I could have told you the moment it happened, 30 rows up on the other side of the field, that that was a penalty. But five Pac-10 officials apparently decided it wasn't.
Yes, Notre Dame had every opportunity to put the game away; yes, they gave up a 61-yard pass on 4th and 9. But Notre Dame won the game by the rules, and the Pac-10 officials made damn sure that they wouldn't be credited with it.
I know this won't count for much, but in my mind, for as long as I live, this game will go down as a win.