USC quarterback Mark Sanchez will have a life-altering decision to make come the end of the Trojans' football season.
Sanchez has enjoyed plenty of success in his first year as the Trojans' starter, and the fourth-year junior will have the eyes of NFL scouts and general managers focused on his potential as a pro quarterback.
And after an efficient performance in USC's 38-3 win over Notre Dame, Sanchez got to focus his eyes on some things.
He saw the crowd erupt when seniors Patrick Turner and Rey Maualuga led the band after the win. He saw each senior address the team after the win.
And he got hungry.
"I haven't even entertained the thought of even thinking about leaving. There's really nothing to say right now," Sanchez said. "I haven't thought about it, but it's so much fun being here. I love every part of it. That's obviously going to affect any decision.
"I never want to leave these guys. It's too much fun."
When Trojan players return to campus and when out-going seniors address the team, they deliver a message.
"They never want to leave," Sanchez said. "When the guys come back like Lawrence Jackson, Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers, guys like that, they say, 'Man, it's special being a Trojan.'
"There's something special about playing on Saturday in the Coliseum. They absolutely miss it."
Trojans like Brian Cushing and Maualuga were faced with the same decision Sanchez and junior safety Taylor Mays will need to evaluate after their junior years.
Both Cushing and Maualuga chose to return for their final season.
"I stayed because there's nothing like this - the bonds, the families, the friends. For me, I learned a lot of stuff this last year," Maualuga said. "All the good things that have happened in my life, happened here at SC. I wouldn't give this up for anything."
USC head coach Pete Carroll said he understands the lure of big money and the chance to fulfill dreams of playing professional football. Still, that final year in the Trojans' system, he said, could provide even more riches and a brighter future.
"We have so many examples. These guys know how to do this. There's an outlier every now and then that wants to go against the grain," Carroll said. "But, the way to do this is to maximize the player you can become, maximize your time to get ready so when you get there, you can cash in. They'll make a fortune more by staying. There's almost no exception to that.
"It's so clear that we've proven that over the years."
Ready to rumble
Wide receiver Damian Williams couldn't understand it. Why would anyone want to agitate the Trojan defense?
"I'm not even trying to make them mad," Williams said. "I have to play against them every day in practice. I wouldn't think to say anything negative to them."
Defensive end Kyle Moore said Notre Dame did just that,
When USC first entered the Coliseum, the team gathered at midfield like it always does.
"It started out here before we even got dressed," Moore said. "They punted a ball into our huddle. It was real disrespectful."
Already upset, the Trojans started to get hyped up in the tunnel, and after taking the field, things exploded with Notre Dame and USC players pushing, shoving and swinging at one another before the game even began.
"It's a rivalry game, and you can throw everything out the window," Clay Matthews said. "We knew what we had to do."
The Trojan defense went on to do what it had to do - and then some.
USC held Notre Dame to just 91 yards - the fewest gained by an opponent since Colorado gained 61 yards in 2002.
Senior Fili Moala said the pregame fight may have hyped up some of the Trojans, but for a fifth-year veteran like himself, it was nothing too exciting.
"I'm weathered. I'm an old, salty sea dog," Moala said. "It's going to take a lot more than that to get me fired up."
• Williams led USC with seven catches and 86 yards receiving.
The sophomore wide receiver said it was in the USC game plan to get him the ball underneath with space, giving him a chance to gain yards after the catch.
"They brought a lot of pressure," he said. "And anytime you bring a lot of pressure, you can find gaps in the defense. That's what we did.
"We tried to get into the open field and make some plays."
• Marc Tyler looked very good in the second half, rushing for 58 yards on seven carries.
"I was really excited to get him in there," Carroll said.
Tyler broke loose for a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter, tiedthe longest rush of his USC career.
• USC finished the season undefeated at home, outscoring teams 218-19 at the Coliseum. The 19 points allowed at home is the fewest since the Trojans allowed 19 in 1962.
• USC has now won seven straight games over Notre Dame - the Trojans' longest winning streak in the series' 80-game history.
• Kaluka Maiava's second-quarter interception was his first pick since the USC's 2005 season opener at Arkansas - his first game as a Trojan.
•Right tackle Nick Howell left the game in the first half with a high ankle sprain, and he said he thought he'd be out for the Trojans' season finale at UCLA. Fullback Stanley Havili suffered what a team spokesperson called a "mild ankle sprain."
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