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Notre Dame vs. USC: 5 keys to the Irish win

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For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at www.twitter.com/Tom101010.

Irish junior proves 'dominant' in victory

Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 1:26 am

SOUTH BEND - Notre Dame got by longtime rival USC on Saturday 14-10 in front of 80,795 fans at Notre Dame Stadium.

It was the Notre Dame's (5-2) third victory in the past four meetings with the Trojans (4-3).

How did the Fighting Irish do it? Here are five keys to their victory...

Stephon Tuitt played like, well, Stephon Tuitt

Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt has been heralded all season, but mostly for hi splay from previous seasons.

After slowly recovering from off-season hernia surgery, Tuitt is rounding into shape and it is beginning to show on the field.

He had seven total tackles (second-best on the team) and finished with a pair of sacks (his 18th of his career), a pass break-up and a couple of quarterback hurries.

"He got the game ball," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said of Tuitt. "He was all over the place. They couldn't handle him today."

Pressure, and lots of it

Notre Dame continually brought heavy pressure from a number of defensive spots onto USC sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler throughout the second half.

The Fighting Irish totaled five quarterback hurries, including a pair from sophomore Romoe Okwara, as well as sacked Kessler twice.

Kessler opened the game by completing four of his first five passes, but finished by misfiring on 13 of his last 29 attempts.

Stay disciplined

USC was criticized under former coach Lane Kiffin for its inconsistent play. Some games the Trojans looked great and other times, they were awful.

On Saturday, the Trojans lost a game that they had no reason to lose, and they did so by beating themselves.

USC got called for 11 penalties, including one holding call that negated a late run by running back Silas Redd that would've brought the ball inside the Irish 15-yard line.

"Obviously, the penalties hurt us in crucial situations," Trojan interim head coach Ed Orgeron said. "We didn't punch it in the Red Zone when we needed to. We have to eliminate (the penalties)."

Rees performs well

Until he was injured midway through the third quarter, Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees played well. And as history shows, when Rees is solid, the Irish have a legitmate chance to win.

The senior completed 14 of his 21 passes for 166 yards and a pair of scores with no interceptions.

"I thought we got some really good things (out of Tommy)," Kelly said. "Obviously, we missed him in the second half."

Tight End University continues

While Rees was running the Irish offense, he did what he has in years past, which is look for the tight end with regularity.

On Saturday, Rees connected with Troy Niklas for a team-leading four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown.

"I just knew that I had to get open, and it was man coverage," Niklas explained. "I knew Tommy was going to throw me the ball. He threw a good ball and I was able to get my hands on it."