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First half recap: Notre Dame 14, USC 10

Mary Green | Saturday, October 19, 2013

Under the lights for their only night game at home, Notre Dame used a balanced attack on offense to take the first-half lead, 14-10.

The Irish (4-2) came up fruitless on their first drive despite advancing to the USC one-yard line.

Junior running back Cam McDaniel opened with a 3-yard rush after the touchback, and senior quarterback Tommy Rees followed with a 26-yard pass to senior receiver TJ Jones to get the offense going.

Two plays later, Rees threw over two Trojan defenders to reach junior receiver DaVaris Daniels along the right sideline for a 23-yard gain and a first down.

Junior running back George Atkinson picked up 12 more yards with two runs, and the Irish kept the ball on the ground, giving it to McDaniel for three consecutive plays to add seven yards.

With the ball at the Trojan 1-yard line on fourth down, Notre Dame went back to McDaniel, who was immediately stopped by Trojans freshman safety Su’a Cravens for a three-yard loss and turnover on downs.

USC relied mainly on its running game on its first drive. Senior running back Silas Redd ran for nine yards on the first play and sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler hit sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor for an eight-yard gain to pick up the first down and move the Trojans away from their own end zone.

Redd followed with a 12-yard pickup, and a facemask penalty on Irish senior linebacker Prince Shembo added 15 yards to the Trojans’ drive.

Under pressure from three Notre Dame defenders two plays later, Kessler scrambled to his right to find freshman receiver Darreus Rogers wide open 16 yards down the field to cross into Notre Dame territory.

Another pass to Rogers and runs by Redd and Allen brought Southern California 15 yards closer to the end zone.

After a 15-yard rush by Redd, the Trojans put the ball in the running back’s hands again at the half-yard line, and Redd delivered with the rushing touchdown to give his team a 7-0 lead after the 99-yard drive.

The Irish responded on their next possession, beginning with a 20-yard kick return by Atkinson that got the offense rolling.

Tommy Rees led the charge, racking up 48 yards through the air on passes to Daniels, Jones, sophomore receiver Chris Brown and freshman receiver William Fuller.

A McDaniel five-yard rush put the Irish at the Trojans’ seven-yard line, where Rees put the ball into the hands of junior tight end Troy Niklas, outstretched on the goal line and with Southern California redshirt senior linebacker Hayes Pullard on his back, for the Notre Dame touchdown to tie up the game.

The Trojans marched 44 yards down the field on the ensuing possession but came away with no points after junior kicker Andre Heidari missed the 40-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Notre Dame went three-and-out on its drive, and Agholor found an opening to take the punt 48 yards to the Irish 20-yard line, the longest punt return against the home team this season.

The Irish stopped the Trojans from crossing the goal line on this possession, highlighted by senior defensive lineman Louis Nix’s tackle on Allen for a one-yard loss on third down.

Heidari was able to put the 22-yard kick through the uprights on his second attempt to give the 10-7 lead back to Southern California.

The teams traded scoreless possessions that both ended with punts before the Irish came away with another score.

McDaniel fueled the drive, picking up 60 yards on two rushes, including a career-long 36-yard run.

With the ball on the Trojans’ 11-yard line, T.J. Jones made an over-the-shoulder catch along the sidelines for a Notre Dame touchdown.

The first half closed with the Irish ahead, 14-10. Rees picked up 148 passing yards, 46 of those to Jones, and McDaniel led Irish backs with 83 yards on the ground.

Contact Mary Green at mgreen8@nd.edu