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USC holds everything but lead in messy loss to Notre Dame

The Trojans have costly penalties -- 11 for 95 yards -- and fail to score in second half despite opportunities in a 14-10 loss to the Irish.

October 19, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • Interim Coach Ed Orgeron had a winning debut with USC but it all came to a halt in a scoreless second half against Notre Dame on Saturday night in South Bend, Ind.
Interim Coach Ed Orgeron had a winning debut with USC but it all came to a halt… (Jonathan Daniel / Getty…)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The fun stopped here.

USC and interim Coach Ed Orgeron enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts after Lane Kiffin was fired, practicing and playing loose as they defeated Arizona and then prepared for Notre Dame.

But on a chilly Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium there was mainly disappointment.

Notre Dame defeated the Trojans, 14-10, ending USC's streak of five wins at the historic stadium.

By the time the 85th meeting between the rivals was over, the Trojans were beat up and beaten down.

BOX SCORE: Notre Dame 14, USC 10

All-American receiver Marqise Lee reinjured his left knee and spent the second half in a sweatsuit. Tight end Xavier Grimble needed assistance up the tunnel and freshman running back Justin Davis had to be carried by team personnel to the locker room.

"That's just the way it goes," receiver Nelson Agholor said. "We've just got to play harder."

And smarter.

USC was penalized 11 times for 95 yards, including multiple holding and false-start infractions that killed potential scoring drives that might have helped the Trojans remain unbeaten at Notre Dame since 2001.

Instead, USC dropped to 4-3 — with Utah coming up next week.

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

The Trojans outgained Notre Dame, 330-295, but neither team looked sharp on offense, especially in the second half.

USC converted two third downs during a first-quarter scoring drive and then went 0 for 11 the rest of the way.

Notre Dame wasn't much better — the Fighting Irish were four for 14 — but quarterback Tommy Rees passed for two touchdowns in the first half and that proved enough.

The Fighting Irish improved to 5-2 by making a 14-10 halftime lead stand up.

"Whether it's here or on the road, it's important to beat your rival," said Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly, who has defeated the Trojans three times in four years.

Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt sacked USC quarterback Cody Kessler twice and also knocked down a pass. Lineman Louis Nix also brought pressure for a defensive front that seemed to unnerve the Trojans and force them into penalties.

"We saw a great pass rush when we needed it," Kelly said.

Kessler, coming off his most complete game against Arizona, completed 20 of 34 passes for 201 yards, with an interception. Tailback Silas Redd rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, but penalties by offensive linemen stymied more threats.

Rees burned USC's suspect secondary for two touchdowns in the first half, staking the Fighting Irish to their lead. It marked the first time since 2005 that Notre Dame led the Trojans at the break at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Fighting Irish had an opportunity to increase the margin when freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith intercepted a Kessler pass on the third play of the second half. But USC forced Notre Dame to punt and one of the ugliest, unproductive quarters by both teams ensued.

USC appeared to get a break when linebacker Lamar Dawson sacked Rees with 9:16 left in the third quarter, forcing Rees to leave the game because of neck strain. Senior Andrew Hendrix replaced Rees, but USC could not capitalize.

A fourth-down scramble by Kessler from the Notre Dame 28 was nullified by a holding penalty. Early in the fourth quarter, Andre Heidari missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt, his second miss of the night.

But USC got two more chances.

With less than seven minutes left, Notre Dame running back Cam McDaniel fumbled and USC safety Su'a Cravens recovered the ball. It was only the second lost fumble by the Irish this season.

"I really felt when we got the turnover, we were going to give Silas the football and we were going to score," Orgeron said. "But it didn't happen."

Two holding penalties and a false start infraction stalled the Trojans, who lost possession when Tuitt sacked Kessler on fourth down.

USC got one final chance after getting the ball back at its 25-yard line with 1:35 left.

Kessler connected with Agholor for a 32-yard gain and the Trojans moved to Notre Dame's 36.

But a false-start penalty on third and three made it instead a third and eight from the 41.

Kessler's pass to tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was broken up by linebacker Joe Schmidt.

On fourth and eight, Kessler's pass to Agholor fell incomplete short of the first-down marker, allowing Notre Dame to begin its celebration and run out the clock.

gary.klein@latimes.com Twitter: @latimesklein

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