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Theo Riddick rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown, Kyle Brindza kicked five field goals, and No. 1 Notre Dame secured a spot in the BCS championship game with a 22-13 victory over Southern California on Saturday night.

Everett Golson passed for 217 yards as the Fighting Irish (12-0) completed their first perfect regular season since 1988, earning a trip to south Florida on Jan. 7 to play for the storied program’s first national title in 24 years.

Although they did little with flash on an electric night at the Coliseum, the Irish woke up more echoes of past Notre Dame greats with a grinding effort in this dynamic intersectional rivalry with USC (7-5), which has lost four of five.

Notre Dame’s hard-nosed defense appropriately made the decisive stand in the final minutes, keeping USC out of the end zone on four plays from the Irish 1 with 2:33 to play.

After spending more than a decade looking up at the Trojans, the Irish are back on top of this rivalry with two straight wins in Los Angeles. The school of Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen and Paul Hornung has new heroes now, from inspirational linebacker Manti Te’o to coach Brian Kelly, who took the Irish from unranked to start the season to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 19 years.

Te’o, the Heisman Trophy hopeful, had a key interception against USC and became the second Irish defender with three 100-tackle seasons.

The grind-it-out win highlighted an unforgettable season for the Irish, who began the year with questions about their relevancy and survived some uninspiring performances and nail-biting finishes with their unbeaten record intact.

Notre Dame is likely to face an SEC opponent in Miami, but won’t know for another week.

With the Irish offense repeatedly stalling in the red zone against the Trojans, Brindza went five for six on field goals, even hitting a 52-yarder at the halftime gun.

After Brindza’s school record-tying fifth field goal put the Irish up by nine points with 5:58 left, Marqise Lee caught a 53-yard pass from USC freshman Max Wittek at the Notre Dame 2.

But after USC failed on three straight runs at a defense that has allowed just 11 rushing TDs in 30 games, Wittek threw incomplete to fullback Soma Vainuku, setting off a leaping, chest-bumping celebration on the Notre Dame sideline and in the Irish sections of the sold-out Coliseum.

Lee caught just five passes for 75 yards, yet still broke the Pac-12 single-season receptions record established last year by teammate Robert Woods, who had seven catches for 92 yards.

Wittek passed for 186 yards with two interceptions in his first career start for the Trojans, who completed their tumble from the preseason No. 1 ranking with four losses in five games in an enormously disappointing season. Wittek filled in capably for injured Matt Barkley, but USC is headed to a lower-tier bowl in the first year after its NCAA-mandated two-year postseason ban ended.

Barkley watched from the sideline in a grey hoodie with a sling on his right arm after spraining his shoulder in last week’s loss at UCLA. The senior and Pac-12 career passing leader won twice in South Bend during his career, but never got to face the Irish at the Coliseum, sidelined by injuries for both visits.

Barkley still ran down the Coliseum tunnel with the rest of the USC seniors for their final home game. He participated in the coin toss, but could only watch while the Irish opened the game with three clock-consuming drives resulting in 13 points.

USC’s much-criticized defensive caution under assistant head coach Monte Kiffin was exploited by the Irish, with Golson patiently finding the sags in the Trojans’ pass coverage for 181 yards passing in the first half. Riddick went 9 yards for a TD in the first quarter, but USC also stiffened to hold Notre Dame to field goals twice in the red zone.

Notre Dame held its 12th straight opponent without a first-quarter touchdown, but Wittek found Woods for a 9-yard score on the first play of the second quarter – just the ninth touchdown allowed by Notre Dame all season long. The Irish took a 16-10 lead to halftime when Brindza hit the second-longest field goal in Notre Dame history.

Te’o made the seventh interception of his phenomenal season when Wittek threw directly to him on USC’s second play of the second half. Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, and USC settled for a field goal with 9:20 to play just a few moments after USC coach Lane Kiffin called a timeout right before a play that ended with Lee catching a pass on the goal line.



  1. Surapong says:

    Lane Kiffin deserves to be fired for questionable play calls this whole season. Also, his team is totally undisciplined. Last in the FBS in penalties proves that. If he’s still wearing a USC visor next season, I’ll be surprised.

  2. Mario says:

    I don’t even know where to begin I’m so upset. When you look at the difference between UCLA last year and UCLA this year you see not just a different coach, you see a difference in culture. What we have seen is complete destruction of our national contention program by a un qualified coaching staff. In the practice of law we have law, and the color of law, which isn’t law at all. What we’re witnessing is the color of coaching which was made obvious with 5:40 left on the clock and the ball on the 2 yard line. INCOMPETENCE!!! do you really think that our kids worked their tales off this year so that when the game is on the line we call a play that is so predictable that the defensive co-ordinator says easy peaze thanks lane. If you really want to make every thrown ball go to Marquise lee, you are one dumb dude. I remember when Matt Lienart left school and came back and had a talk with JD Booty. He told him that his job was to distribute the ball. That means spread it around and he’s right. For a guy who’s suppose to to be an offensive co-ordinator he doesn’t put his players in a position succeed. At least not often enough. I didn’t see any role outs, back side screens, design QB keepers to put the threat in the middle linebackers mind . I can really right a long paper on what was Pete Carroll’s wining mix at the offensive side of the ball. But then again our defense just stinks to high hell too. I’m going to leave now, as I bleed Cardinal and gold and commenting any further is just to depressing. My heart is broken. AD Haden please HELP!!!!

    • ron lane says:

      Why was this guy hired in the first place? Aren’t we USC? Can’t USC go out and find a real coach, steal him away from another program? Oh, I forgot, we got him from the Raiders. My real point: I thought this Lane guy was a recruiting genius, don’t we have all these gread players? Then why are we 7 -5?

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