Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas, right, celebrates with teammate Nick Martin after a Niklas' catch resulted in a touchdown pass during the first quarter of a college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: October 19, 2013 10:07PM
South Bend, Ind. – USC has felt right at home in its recent trips to Notre Dame Stadium.
Tommy Rees threw two touchdown passes before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury as the Irish defeated USC 14-10.
Notre Dame gained its first win against USC in South Bend since 2001. USC had won five straight against the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium (that includes the 2005 contest that was later vacated because of NCAA penalty).
The Irish played a majority of the second half without Rees. The senior was injured after getting sacked by linebacker Lamar Dawson with 9:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Andrew Hendrix – used at times during the season to give the Irish a running option at quarterback – played the rest of the game.
Rees was 14 of 21 for 166 yards and the two touchdowns. His 11-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones with 1:13 remaining in the first half gave Notre Dame the lead for good.
The Irish (5-2) used a steady ground game after Rees left because of the injury. Notre Dame didn’t gain many yards in his absence.
Actually, the offensive production for both teams came to a screeching halt in the second half.
USC (4-3) had its own injury issues. Top running back Tre Madden didn’t play. Star wide receiver Marqise Lee played a half before exiting with a left knee injury.
The Trojans had a chance with less than seven minutes to go when Notre Dame running back Cam McDaniel fumbled. USC took over at Notre Dame’s 34. But the drive stalled because of penalties and a sack by Stephon Tuitt. USC reached Notre Dame’s 41 in its final drive, but the Trojans again came up empty.
Both teams moved the ball down the field with ease in the first half.
Rees completed passes of 26 yards (to Jones) and 23 yards (to DaVaris Daniels) to help the Irish reach USC’s 1 in the game’s opening drive. Notre Dame went for it on fourth down from Trojans’ 1. McDaniel got stuffed in the backfield.
The Trojans promptly went 96 yards on the way to scoring the game’s first points. Silas Redd had a 15-yard run to Notre Dame’s 1. He got the ball on the next play and scored, giving the Trojans a 7-0 lead.
Notre Dame had more success through the air in its second possession. This time, the Irish finished the drive with a touchdown. Rees completed 6 of 7 passes in the possession, including a 7-yard touchdown to tight end Troy Niklas on the final play of the first quarter to tie the game at 7.
USC got in position to pull ahead in its next drive, relying on Redd to reach Notre Dame’s 22. Kicker Andre Heidari missed a 40-yard field goal.
Heidari came through in his next opportunity. He connected from 22 yards to give the Trojans a 10-7 lead with 7:50 to go in the first half.
The score remained that way until late in the second quarter.
Notre Dame started a drive from its own 9 with 2:42 left in the half. McDaniel had rushes of 24 and 36 yards to help the Irish reach USC’s 11. Jones then made a twisting catch in the end zone for a touchdown, giving Notre Dame the 14-10 lead going into halftime. The catch gave Jones a touchdown for four consecutive games. It held up as the difference maker as the Irish earned consecutive victories against the Trojans for the first time since winning three straight from 1999-2001.