Charles White of Southern California left jet streams in his wake today and all the leaden-footed Notre Dame defenders could do was watch his steam.
The final score, 42-23 in favor of the Trojans, was an excess even for those who like to see offensive pyrotechnics.
There were 1,126 net yards by both teams. White, the 6-foot 185-pound blur of a tailback, rushed a career-high 261 yards and scored four touchdowns on short runs in the Trojans' 35-point second half.
Once the score reached 28-14 early in the fourth period, Notre Dame had to abandon what hope halfback Vagas Ferguson had held out for them and go to the pass.
The Trojans teed off on quarterback Rusty Lisch, who completed only three of 12 throws in the first half, and the Irish were subjected to humiliation before 59,075 in Notre Dame Stadium.
Trojan quarterback Paul McDonald embarrassed the Irish secondary with his left-handed rainbows to wide-open receivers.
He sent White on power sweeps around the Notre Dame flanks or got him running room with pitchouts. Though defenders tried to key on White, they could not even extend him laterally because of his remarkable takeoffs and multiple-geared accelerations.
White's touchdown runs covered 3, 1, 1, and 1 yards.His longest run was 28 yards, but he averaged six on 44 carries. The wonder was that a major college team with a reputation for defense couldn't turn him in between the tackles or run him out of bounds.
Ferguson, handicapped by the ineffective Irish passing game in the early going, had to carry the load on offense and averaged more than seven yards rushing in totaling 185 on 25 carries. Included was a 79-yard sprint in a first-quarter drive that ended on the Southern California one after an inept pass attempt by Ferguson.
"It was supposed to be a halfback pass, but somebody got whipped on a block," said Notre Dame Coach Dan Devine. "We just didn't execute."
Ferguson had never thrown a pass for Notre Dame. He looked as though he was trying to bail out when the running part of his fake was ruined by Southern California penetration, or maybe fumbling forward for a gain.
The Trojans took possession on the one and went 99 yards to score. En route, White spun off a 28-yard run before McDonald passed 12 yards to split end Dan Garcia for a touchdown, his first of eight catches for 149 yards.
"Their 99-yard touchdown drive was a big morale booster," Devine said. "They proved they could be explosive from any point on the field.
"I'm surprised at what they did against our defense. They're the best ofensive team I've seen in a long time." McDonald, a 6-foot-2, 188-pound senior, received excellent blocking and his receivers had little difficulty in shaking loose from Irish pass defenders.
Trailing in the third quarter, 21-7, the Irish got back into contention on a splendid 21-yard touchdown run by Ferguson, after a 65-yard thrust. McDonald retaliated with his second touchdown pass 12 yards to flanker Kevin Williams.
Notre Dame then went to passes almost exclusively with the score and the clock against Lisch. Although he hit for a more respectable average than earlier, it was a case of Southern California running out of incentive and merely harassing him with no risk.
White moved into third place on the all-time NCAA regular season rushing list, behind Tony Dorsett and Archie Griffin. White has 1,001 yards this season, 5,196 in his college career.
Ferguson became Notre Dame's all-time rusher, passing Jerome Heavens. Ferguson has 812 yards this season, 2,847 career.
As to the winning strategy, Robinson said, "The key was our ability to mix the pass and the run. Last week (in a tie with Stanford), we depended too much on the run.
"In the first half, on first down, we noticed they (the Irish) were in an over-defense -- and eight-man line, to stop our strong running game. In the second half we adjusted by running either to the weak side or passing.
"It was McDonald's job to recognize and adjust. Ultimate control must come on the field; 35 to 40 percent of our plays were changed at the line of scrimmage. McDonald was sensational today. He was very cool back in the pocket; he reminded me of Kenny Stabler (of the Oakland Raiders)."