Irish secure shot for national championship
Posted: 11/24/2012 at 11:30 pm
By: Rachel Terlep
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Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, right, breaks the tackle of Southern California linebacker Hayes Pullard during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Notre Dame cornerback KeiVarae Russell, right, intercepts a pass intended for Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Notre Dame wide receiver Robby Toma, top, jumps onto running back Theo Riddick, bottom, to celebrate after Riddick dove into the end zone for a touchdown, as Southern California linebacker Dion Bailey, left, runs past eduring the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick dives across the goal line to score a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against USC on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Notre Dame is heading to the national championship game for the first time in the BCS era after beating USC 22-13 in the final game of the regular season.
The No. 1 Irish will finish 12-0 for the first time since 1988, which is also the last time Notre Dame was named national champions.
The Irish started the season unranked. They’ll end it in title game.
USC (7-5) didn’t go down without a fight. In seven visits to the red zone, Notre Dame only scored one touchdown
The Irish scored easily early, though, going up 10-0 in the first quarter.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson opened with a 9-play, 66-yard drive that ran out of gas in the red zone. Kyle Brindza made a 27-yard field goal to give the Irish an early lead.
The Irish forced three straight incompletions by USC quarterback Max Wittek, a redshirt freshman making his first collegiate start.
Notre Dame punched back with a 12-play, 87-yard drive that featured four straight double-digit yard gains by Golson. Theo Riddick topped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.
USC didn’t let the Irish score so easily after that, though Riddick finished the game with 19 carries for 134 yards and Notre Dame’s only touchdown.
After starting 0 for 3, Wittek embarked on a perfect 5-for-5 streak that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods.
Notre Dame and USC then entered a mostly one-sided field goal battle, resulting in four Irish field goals to USC’s two.
Brindza scored from 27, 29, 52, 33 and 19 to keep Notre Dame out of USC’s reach throughout the night. Brindza’s only miss came from 34 yards.
After Woods’s touchdown, the Irish remembered why they were the top-ranked defense in the nation.
KeiVarae Russell intercepted a long bomb to Woods toward the end of the second quarter, resulting in Brindza’s 52-yarder to wrap up the first half. Manti Te’o, who had been quiet the first two quarters, picked off Wittek on the second play of the third quarter.
Kapron Lewis-Moore wrapped up Wittek on 3rd and 5 for a 7-yard loss to force a punt. On USC’s next series, Louis Nix plowed over tailback Silas Redd on 3rd-and-1 to force another punt.
Wittek found Woods 53 yards down the field to bring USC to the Notre Dame 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter. After two pass interference penalties on Russell, USC was looking at 1st-and-an-inch at the goal line. Notre Dame stopped the surge all four times.
Golson finished 15 for 26 for 217 yards. Wittek finished 14 for 23 for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.