USC can’t overcome errors in loss to Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — 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.