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Irish defeat USC, 14-10, under the lights

Mary Green | Sunday, October 20, 2013

Notre Dame was able to sing the Alma Mater in front of its home crowd Saturday with a 14-10 win over rival USC on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

The offenses for the Irish (5-2) and the Trojans (4-3) set the tone for the first half, while their defenses took over the in second.

Notre Dame came up fruitless on its first drive despite advancing to the Southern California one-yard line. On fourth down, Notre Dame junior running back Cam McDaniel 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. After a 15-yard rush by running back Silas Redd, the Trojans put the ball in the senior’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 96-yard drive. Redd led all players with 112 yards on the ground, while McDaniel’s 102 were the most for Notre Dame.

The Irish responded on their next possession. Senior quarterback Tommy Rees led the charge, racking up 48 yards through the air on passes to junior receiver DaVaris Daniels, senior receiver TJ Jones, sophomore receiver Chris Brown and freshman receiver Will 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 Trojans redshirt senior linebacker Hayes Pullard on his back, for the Notre Dame touchdown to tie 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 scamper.

Then, with the ball on the Trojans’ 11-yard line, Jones made an over-the-shoulder catch along the sidelines for a Notre Dame touchdown, and the first half closed with the Irish ahead, 14-10.

The Trojans’ first possession of the second half swung the momentum in favor of the Irish, as freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith intercepted Kessler’s pass to Agholor for his first career pick.

However, Notre Dame could not reap the benefits of the USC turnover and ended the drive with a punt.

Irish junior punter Kyle Brindza and Trojans sophomore punter Kris Albarado both saw a bit of game action in the third quarter as their teams traded scoreless possessions, four apiece.

In one of those Irish drives, Rees was sacked by junior linebacker Lamar Dawson for an eight-yard loss. The quarterback was shaken up and left the game for the locker room, and senior quarterback Andrew Hendrix took the reins of the offense.

The Trojans only put up 32 yards against the Irish defense in the third quarter, the fewest yards allowed in a single quarter for Notre Dame this season. Each team managed one first down in the period.

USC finally ended the punting streak five minutes into the fourth quarter with a 46-yard field goal attempt by Heidari that fell short of the goalposts.

An Irish drive midway through the fourth quarter ended on a fumble by McDaniel, which Cravens recovered for the Trojans. The fumble was only the second that Notre Dame has lost all season.

USC did not capitalize on the turnover, hindered by three penalties that set its offense back 25 yards. The three-and-out ended with a monster sack by junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt that set the tone for Notre Dame’s control of game’s final minutes. Tuitt registered two sacks and seven tackles on the night.

After another punt by Brindza, who combined with Albarado to punt for 484 yards, the Trojans had one final opportunity to take a late-game lead.

Kessler completed a pass to Agholor to advance 32 yards to the Irish 43, and the tandem picked up quick seven yards more on the next play. An incompletion and false start penalty slowed the Trojans’ progress, and on third-and-8, a hard hit by Notre Dame junior linebacker Joe Schmidt on Southern California sophomore receiver Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick forced another incomplete pass.

On the Trojans’ final down, Irish sophomore cornerback KeiVarae Russell broke up a pass intended for Agholor, allowing Notre Dame to take possession and finish the game in victory formation.

With their first win over Southern California at home since 2001, the Irish head on the road to face Air Force on Saturday in Colorado Springs.

Contact Mary Green at [email protected]