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.