Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 28, 2013 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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murphy's Law dan murphy The Trojans started with the ball on their 48-yard line or better four times in the second half. But without top receiver Marqise Lee — who left the game at halftime with a knee injury — they couldn't capitalize. As Notre Dame can attest, it's hard to run a successful offense with your most valuable player watching in sweatpants. Rees' biggest contribution to the win itself wasn't his first-half performance either, according to his teammates. The normally reserved leader poured his heart out in the locker room during halftime. Fellow senior TJ Jones said the spontaneous speech, imploring the team to stick together and love each other, had several teammates at the brink of tears. "Tommy's pretty quiet usually," Niklas said. "He likes to be careful and choose words wisely. It was pretty awesome to see him open up and speak from the heart. It was extremely motivating for me." Since his first start as a freshman, Rees has been Notre Dame's life raft. He led the team to a 4-0 finish as a wide-eyed rookie, managing to snap an eight-game losing streak to the rival Trojans in the process. The following year, Dayne Crist's much anticipated takeover crumbled immediately, and Rees pieced together an 8-5 season. His relief work a year ago in an undefeated regular season is well documented, and this season he's once again bailing out Everett Golson for a silly mistake. Rees has been cleaning up Notre Dame's messes for four years. For the first time Saturday, someone else was left to steer the ship, and the Irish faithful got a good look at how hard that can be. More often than not, for one reason or another, these rivalry games with USC end up being more memorable than most. There was the Bush Push game in 2005. There was a nighttime bells-and-whistles extravaganza in 2011, the fallout from which stressed Kelly's control of the locker room with his "my guys" comments the next week. There was the goal-line stand in L.A. a year ago that punched Notre Dame's ticket to the national title game. And this year's game will go down as the day when Tommy Rees' value to the program came into sharp focus beyond just his teammates. It wasn't clear in the hours that followed the win — one that moved the Irish to 5-2 and set them up for a clean run until the season finale at Stanford — when Rees will return. Kelly described the diagnosis as a neck sprain, which sounds far less damning than a head injury. Whenever he returns to the field, Rees will do so surrounded by people who have always understood how important it is that he's there. And when he has time to look back on his career after it comes to a close, Rees should remember his final USC game as the night when everyone learned he "wasn't that bad." ✦ Dan Murphy has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since August 2011. He can be reached at

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