Goal line stands are great stories to tell— when the team actually wins. USC stopped Notre Dame on the half yard line on fourth down. They took the ensuing possession 96 yards and punched it in the end zone with a 1-yard run by Silas Redd. The Trojans looked capable of defeating the Irish for the sixth straight time in South Bend. Then the rain started up, much like another rain soaked rivalry game a couple years back. The Trojans lost during the closing minutes in a heartbreaking fashion. This time, the result was similar. USC failed to execute in many areas and faltered in the ugly match.
Both teams combined for a total of four scoring drives in the 27 drives. The halftime score was the final score. The Trojans finished with more total offense than the Fighting Irish, though that meant little. The Irish lost starting quarterback Tommy Rees part way through the third quarter. The Trojans seemed to have regressed despite regaining a number of players on both offense and defense.
USC kicker, Andre Heidari was solid his first season. He was 15 of 17 on field goals and a perfect 50 of 50 on extra point kicks. He regressed slightly due to an injury, finishing the 2012 season with 10 of 16 field goals and 39 of 41 on point after attempts. Currently, his statistics stand at 6 of 11 on field goals and 22 of 23 on extra points. He missed two field goals against Notre Dame and another two against Washington State. Both games would have ended in victories had he made those kicks. The blame cannot be placed solely on him— had USC capitalized on their countless opportunities, Heidari would not have been in that position.
In the 13 Trojan drives.four started in Notre Dame territory and one at their own 48-yard line. The results were one missed field goal, two punts, a turnover on downs, and one field goal. Overall, the Trojans punted six times, threw one interception, missed two field goals, and turned it over twice on downs. They had as many third down conversions as missed kicks on 13 attempts.
Dropped passes became a big issue again. In the final desperate drive alone, there were two potential first down passes that were dropped. Marqise Lee dropped a 22-yard touchdown pass from Cody Kessler early in the second quarter, which could have been the game winner. Other than that, he only accounted for two catches for 18 yards before leaving from reaggravating his previous injury. Along with Lee, receivers Nelson Agholor and Darreus Rogers also appeared to have some sort of injury in the game.
The offensive line committed far too many penalties. Guards, Aundrey Walker and Max Tuerk both committed two holding penalties each, already accounting for a loss of 40 yards before the negated plays are factored into the losses. Tackles, Chad Wheeler and Kevin Graf combined for three false start penalties, losing 15 yards for the team. The line had trouble protecting Kessler— his white jersey was covered in dirt by the end of the game. The lone bright spot was Redd rushing for 112 yards on 19 carries, making him the first 100-yard rusher against the Irish so far this season.
Enough about the offense. The defense does not get a pass. The failing USC secondary was bailed out by the loss of Tommy Rees. Before that happened, the USC defensive backs made him look good, much like they did with B.J. Denker last week. The return of Anthony Brown did not help shore up the corner spot.
With injuries piling high and weaknesses being exposed, this USC team seems to have no answers. They remain inconsistent as they continue to lose winnable games. The Trojans’ first seven opponents only combined for a win-loss ratio of 25-23 at this point in the season. The final six opponents left on the schedule combine for 25-15.