Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - An interception by Harrison Smith at the goal line with 36 seconds remaining made all the difference for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they captured a thrilling 20-16 win over the USC Trojans in non-conference action at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees was able to shake off a slow start in the first half and overcame four turnovers to help push the Fighting Irish (7-5) to their first win over USC since 2001. Rees finished the night 20-of-32 for 149 yards and a couple of touchdowns in just his third career start.
The Trojans were first to get on the board when kicker Joe Houston knocked through a 45-yard field goal after one of many stalled drives by the home team.
Late in the second quarter the Fighting Irish finally got rolling, piecing together a lengthy 16-play, 79-yard drive that ate up more than eight minutes on the clock and culminated with a one-yard TD pass from Rees to Michael Floyd. The wideout finished the night with 11 catches for 86 yards.
With the first half winding down Notre Dame again gained possession of the ball and this time needed a mere 37 seconds to move 62 yards and make it into the end zone on a one-yard pass from Rees to Duval Kamara. Unfortunately, a missed PAT left the visitors with just a 13-6 edge at the break.
Houston again salvaged three points for the Trojans early in the third frame when he knocked through a 23-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 13-6.
Mustain took it upon himself to get USC into the end zone for the first and only time when he pushed in over the goal line from a yard out to knot the score at 13-13 with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter.
A 37-yard field goal by Houston at 6:25 of the fourth put the Trojans ahead for the first time at 16-13.
Rees stepped in and engineered a 77-yard drive after that for the Fighting Irish, using Robert Hughes to carry the ball into the end zone from five yards away to regain the lead at 20-16.
USC had a chance to regain the advantage when Mustain threw to a wide open Ronald Johnson down at the 15-yard line with only 1:17 left on the clock, but for whatever reason he failed to reel it in even though he didn't have a defender within 10 yards of him and would have surely walked into the end zone.
With time ticking away Mustain tried to make a play for USC, but his receiver turned the opposite way and Smith leaped to make the interception and seal the deal in the waning moments.
USC generated a mere 261 yards as both teams fought through a cold and rainy night.