USC can’t overcome errors in 14-10 loss to Irish

Southern California wasn’t good enough to overcome its mistakes
and beat Notre Dame in South Bend for a sixth straight time. Not
this time.

The Trojans were held scoreless in the second half of a 14-10
loss Saturday night, a disappointing finish for interim coach Ed
Orgeron in his second game running the team since Lane Kiffin’s
dismissal.

”It seemed that every time we had a first down or something
like that we had a holding call or jumped offside, we shot
ourselves in the foot, and then it was second and 20,” Orgeron
said.

USC looked as if it might have a good scoring opportunity when
safety Su’a Cravens forced Notre Dame running back Cam McDaniel to
fumble and recovered the ball at the Notre Dame 34 with 6:27 left
in the game. But USC had three penalties on the ensuing drive,
including a holding penalty on a third-and-12 from the 23, a false
start on fourth-and-15 and Cody Kessler was sacked for a seven-yard
loss.

”It was just a frustrating game overall,” USC right tackle
Kevin Graf said.

Notre Dame’s odds of winning didn’t appear good when Tommy Rees
was knocked out of the game when he was sacked with about 9 minutes
left in the third quarter, but neither team scored in the second
half and the Irish hung on. Rees was 14 of 21 passing for 166 yards
with TD throws to Troy Niklas and TJ Jones in the first half.

Kelly said Rees sustained a neck strain. He said it will be a
day or two before Rees knows how long he will be out.

”He’s a little sore tonight, but he’s clear and talking,”
Kelly said.

USC managed just 121 total yards of offense in the second half.
After converting both third-down conversions on their opening
scoring drive, the Trojans went 0-of-11 the rest of the game.

”We started trying to make stuff happen and it seemed like they
always had a guy there,” Kessler said. ”We were killing ourselves
with penalties and missed assignments. You can’t win a game when
you do that. If you can’t convert on third down and keep drives
alive, you can’t really win a game and you can’t put up points.

The Irish (5-2) beat the Trojans (4-3) for the third time in the
past four games, after losing the previous eight straight, but won
at home for the first time since Pete Carroll’s first year as USC
coach in 2001. This is the earliest the Trojans have three losses
since starting that season 2-5.

”We have a hurt team in there,” Orgeron said. ”They gave it
everything they had. ”

In only the third night game at Notre Dame Stadium in the past
two decades, there were a lot of mistakes and both teams lost
players to injuries.

Marqise Lee, who sat out against Arizona with a sprained knee,
had two catches for 18 yards in the first half but didn’t play in
the second half. Lee said he could have played in the second half,
but Orgeron didn’t want him to.

”I told him I was all right, but he refused,” Lee said.

Silas Redd, the Penn State transfer who missed the first five
games with a knee injury, got the bulk of the carries in the first
half with leading rusher Tre Madden out with an injured hamstring,
but had just two carries five yards in the third quarter. He
finished with 19 carries for 112 yards.

Orgeron said Notre Dame’s pressure up front hurt the
Trojans.

”We just seemed that we couldn’t get things going,” he
said.

With Rees out, the Irish attempted just four more passes and
Andrew Hendrix wasn’t close on any of them was close as the Irish
could muster only 47 yards total offense in the second half.
McDaniel led the Irish rushing game with 92 yards on 18
carries.

Kessler was 20-of-34 passing with an interception, with Nelson
Agholor catching six passes for 39 yards. USC also was hampered by
11 penalties for 95 yards and Andre Heidari missed field goals of
40 and 46 yards, leaving him 2-of-7 on field goals of 30 yards or
more this season.

”Obviously the penalties hurt us tonight in crucial situations,
and we didn’t punch it in the red zone when we needed to,” Orgeron
said.

Both teams squandered scoring opportunities in the first half.
The USC defense was the first to come up big as Cravens was
unblocked and tackled McDaniel for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-goal
from the 1-yard line. The Trojans responded with a 96-yard
touchdown drive, with Redd rushing for 40 yards on six carries.

The Irish tied the game on a 7-yard scoring pass from Rees to
Niklas. The Trojans blew a chance to take a lead when Heidari
missed a 40-yard attempt wide right early in the second
quarter.

Agholor returned a 47-yard punt by Notre Dame 48 yards to the
Notre Dame 25, with another five yards added on because Notre Dame
lined up in an illegal formation on the punt. But after Kessler
threw an 11-yard pass to Lee, the Trojans had to settle for a
22-yard field goal and didn’t score again.