SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame has finally snapped its long, miserable home losing streak to USC.
It sure wasn't easy.
The Fighting Irish outlasted Southern California in a game of attrition Saturday night as Tommy Rees threw two touchdown passes in a 14-10 victory that ended a five-game home skid to their rivals that dated to 2001.
"We battled and mentally and physically continued to play every play. That's what we ask of them," coach Brian Kelly said. "That's what I expect from our group is to keep competing regardless of what happens in the game."
Notre Dame's odds of winning didn't appear good when Rees left the game for good after being sacked with about 9 minutes left in the third quarter. But neither team scored in the second half and the Irish hung on. Rees was 14 of 21 passing for 166 yards with TD throws to Troy Niklas and TJ Jones in the first half.
Kelly said Rees had a neck strain. He said it will be a day or two before Rees knows how long he will be out.
"He's a little sore tonight, but he's clear and talking," Kelly said.
USC managed just 121 total yards of offense in the second half. After converting both third-down conversions on their opening scoring drive, the Trojans went 0-of-11 the rest of the game.
"We started trying to make stuff happen and it seemed like they always had a guy there," USC quarterback Cody Kessler said. "We were killing ourselves with penalties and missed assignments. You can't win a game when you do that. If you can't convert on third down and keep drives alive, you can't really win a game and you can't put up points.
The Irish (5-2) beat the Trojans (4-3) for the third time in the past four games, after losing the previous eight straight, but won at home for the first time since Pete Carroll's first year as USC coach in 2001. USC won last week in Ed Orgeron's first game as interim coach following Lane Kiffin's dismissal, but this is the earliest the Trojans have three losses since starting that 2001 season 2-5.
"We have a hurt team in there," Orgeron said. "They gave it everything they had. "
In only the third night game at Notre Dame Stadium in the past two decades, there were a lot of mistakes and both teams lost players to injuries.
Marqise Lee, who sat out against Arizona with a sprained knee, had two catches for 18 yards in the first half but didn't play in the second half. Silas Redd, the Penn State transfer who missed the first five games with a knee injury, got the bulk of the carries in the first half with leading rusher Tre Madden out with an injured hamstring, but had just two carries five yards in the third quarter. He finished with 19 carries for 112 yards.