Sports

Brindza’s five field goals send Notre Dame to BCS title game

Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, right, ran for 146 yards and a touchdown on Saturday in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)
Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick, right, ran for 146 yards and a touchdown on Saturday in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES – The Fighting Irish punched their ticket to Miami.

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 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.

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.

“Well, that’s who we are,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “It’s been our defense all year. Our offense is able to manage enough points.”

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 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 – and he took particular pride in that last defensive stand, which included three straight Trojans runs resulting in nothing.

“It doesn’t matter where the ball is,” Te’o said. “We’re going to protect the end zone at all costs.”

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.

Notre Dame 22, USC 13

Notre Dame 10 6 3 3 22
Southern Cal 0 10 0 3 13

ND—FG Brindza 27

ND—Riddick 9 run (Brindza kick)

USC—R.Woods 11 pass from Wittek (Heidari kick)

ND—FG Brindza 29

USC—FG Heidari 39

ND—FG Brindza 52

ND—FG Brindza 33

USC—FG Heidari 21

ND—FG Brindza 19

A—93,607.

ND USC
First downs 24 19
Rushes-yards 42-222 27-95
Passing 217 186
Comp-Att-Int 15-27-0 14-24-2
Return Yards 0 4
Punts-Avg. 3-44.3 3-45.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-50 3-15
Time of Poss. 34:38 25:22

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Notre Dame, Riddick 20-146, Golson 9-47, C.Wood 8-20,

G.Atkinson 2-15, Team 3-(minus 6). Southern Cal, Redd 12-77,

McNeal 9-38, Lee 1-(minus 1), Team 1-(minus 4), Wittek 4-(minus 15).

PASSING—Notre Dame, Golson 15-26-0-217, Team 0-1-0-0. Southern Cal,

Wittek 14-23-2-186, Team 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING—Notre Dame, Eifert 4-69, T.Jones 3-40, Riddick 3-33,

Toma 2-34, C.Wood 2-18, Goodman 1-23. Southern Cal, R.Woods 7-92, Lee 5-75, Vainuku 1-10, Grimble 1-9.



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