first_img “I was off tonight,” Leinart said. “I have no excuses. I couldn’t get into a rhythm. I made some really dumb throws.” Leinart threw two interceptions for the first time since throwing two against Oregon State in 2003. SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A USC student rode across campus this week sporting a “Bring on Booty” T-shirt, referring to backup quarterback John David Booty. USC fans are not quite ready to replace Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart yet, but the senior played his worst game of the season Saturday against Notre Dame before scoring the winning touchdown with three seconds left. “Matt was just off,” offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. Leinart probably damaged his Heisman Trophy repeat aspirations, although even he acknowledged the dramatic victory overcame his poor game. “Everyone will forget that and remember those last two drives,” he said. Leinart completed three of five passes on USC’s next-to-last drive that saw the Trojans take a 24-21 lead on Reggie Bush’s 9-yard touchdown run. He was 2 for 4 on the final drive, but scored the winning touchdown on his quarterback sneak. “When you’re on the 1-yard line, it’s man on man,” Leinart said. “It’s get in the end zone or go home.” center_img Leinart appeared overcome with emotion as the game ended. “I was in shock,” he said. “I didn’t want to celebrate ’til the clock hit zero because who knows what can happen in three seconds. It was just a great game and I am still really speechless.” His teammates expressed support even though they couldn’t believe the close outcome. “I love Matt, he made a great play,” tailback LenDale White said. “But that game was beyond nervous. This was the tightest game ever.” There was speculation on NBC that Leinart would come out of the game after tailback LenDale White fell on Leinart’s helmet and he sought medical attention. Booty even started warming up. But USC doctors never considered taking him out of the game. “I got a knee in the back of helmet and cut my lip open but I wasn’t coming out,” Leinart said. Unlike in Oregon three weeks ago, when Leinart complained about a dry ball, or his concussion two weeks ago against Arizona State, he didn’t have excuses for a subpar effort against Notre Dame. “They played exactly like we thought they would,” Leinart said. “They did pressure us a little more than we thought and put pressure on me and that can get you off rhythm a little bit. I missed some easy throws that could have been big plays.” Something’s clearly amiss because Leinart spent Monday working with his personal coach, Steve Clarkson, during a private workout before USC’s practice. Clarkson urged Leinart to throw tighter passes and quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian said Leinart worried that deep balls were getting away from him. It will no doubt be a question again this week when the Trojans play Washington, although the Huskies are not expected to challenge USC like Notre Dame did. That won’t matter today, however, because Leinart savored the victory even if he wasn’t pleased with his performance. “I would imagine this will go down as one of the best games,” Leinart said. Added Bush: “Big-time players make big-time plays. I knew he could do it. These are the plays that are remembered forever. He’s our leader. He’s not going to give up.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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