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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Penalties Plague USC As They Fall 14-10 To Notre Dame

USC closes out its non-conference schedule against rival Notre Dame.

Both teams entered Saturday's game unranked and with two losses. (Scott Enyeart/NT)
Both teams entered Saturday's game unranked and with two losses. (Scott Enyeart/NT)


Penalties, injuries and miscues were the downfall of USC Saturday night in their 14-10 loss to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

The Trojans fall to 4-3 with the loss, making interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron’s record with the team 1-1. Even with the Notre Dame offense struggling in the second half as quarterback Tommy Rees left the game with an injury, the Trojans could not convert points on offense for the win. 


The Trojans began the first half with momentum on their side, coming off of an important win at home against Arizona in what was the first game for Coach Orgeron. 


The defense stopped Notre Dame on a big 4th and goal play, then Silas Redd took control of the offense leading the team down the field in a 96-yard touchdown drive. 


Notre Dame countered with a touchdown on their next possession, scored from 7 yards out by wide Troy Niklas. 


Both defenses struggled in the first half, allowing opposing offenses to drive down the field and score points. 


Nelson Agholor made important plays for the offense, as well as on special teams, most notably a 48-yard punt return that lead to a 22 yard field goal by Andre Heidari. 


A game that looked like it would be an offensive shoot out turned sour: the only points were scored in the first half. 


Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees left the game with a possible concussion and the game shifted to a mostly defensive effort. Both offenses struggled and were no longer moving the ball down the field. 


USC converted both third down plays on their first scoring drive, but went 0-11 in third downs conversions the rest of the game. 


And third downs weren’t the only issue for the Trojans. Marqise Lee left the game with lagging effects of the knee injury he sustained at Arizona State a few weeks back. USC missed 2 field goals on the day as Heidari missed a 46-yarder in the second and goal play, then Silas Redd took control of half. 


Penalties also plagued the Trojans, having 11 penalties for a total of 95 yards in the game. Penalties seemed to come just when the offense was starting a drive. Safety Su’a Cravens recovered a fumble in the 4th yard line. Multiple times in this drive, the Trojans converted first downs, only to have the plays called back by holding penalties: Silas Redd had a long run called back, and Quarterback Cody Kessler had a 19 yard 4th and 15 scramble called back as well. The drive ended on a 4th and 20 sack.


Coach Orgeron was visibly upset on the sidelines and the Trojans beat themselves with their play. In a game that was essential for the team, USC struggled. The loss tonight indicates that even with the mid-season coaching change and the new attitude and excitement surrounding the football program, this is in fact a rebuilding year. 


With the Trojans dropping to 4-3 on the season, postseason play is unlikely especially with tough opponents in the coming weeks, namely UCLA and Stanford. 


While the team wants to play well for Coach Orgeron, desire alone is not enough. 


For the Trojans to have success going forward, they need to play like they did in the first half: moving the ball on offense and not defeating themselves with miscues and penalties that were their ultimate downfall. 


It will be interesting to see how the team rallies after their first loss under the leadership of Coach Orgeron, going into homecoming weekend vs. Utah.

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