Notre Dame victorious over USC, heading to the BCS National Championship for first time since 1988
For all the Notre Dame faithful that have been waiting 20-plus years for their team’s return to glory, Saturday night brought with it a more than welcomed sight.
The No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish turned in a gritty and balanced performance on the road to hand USC a 22-13 loss and cap off an undefeated season that all but assures Notre Dame a spot in this year’s BCS title game.
Welcome back to relevancy
Notre Dame, which saw its share of ups and downs during the last decade, has not appeared in the BCS National Championship game since 1988. The Fighting Irish were 8-5 in the last two seasons and a dreadful 3-9 back in 2007. College football insiders and experts agree that, with the way that Saturday’s slate of games played out, the Fighting Irish will meet either reigning champ Alabama or Georgia in the title game. Those two teams will collide next weekend in the SEC championship game.
Brian Kelly is the man behind this epic turnaround. Kelly has lifted the Fighting Irish out of mediocrity and on to the big stage in just two seasons at the helm.
A treacherous road to the big game
It was not an easy road for Notre Dame either, having to go through teams like Michigan, Miami, Stanford, BYU, Pittsburgh and, now, USC in order to secure its spot in the 2013 BCS National Championship game. Saturday’s game against the Trojans was arguably the biggest hurdle of the season for the Fighting Irish, who knew coming into the contest that a win gets them in the National Championship game for sure.
Irish earn the win with balanced attack
The Fighting Irish rose to the occasion with an offensive flurry, amassing 439 total offensive yards, even if touchdowns seemed to elude both teams. Running back Theo Riddick turned in a stellar performance for Notre Dame with 146 yards on 20 carries while quarterback Everett Golson went 15-for-26 passing for 217 yards. Notre Dame’s signature defense, led by Heisman Trophy candidate linebacker Manti Te’o, also came to play, holding an explosive USC offense to just 281 yards on the night.
The Fighting Irish defense also made arguably the biggest defensive stand of the year with just over two minutes left in the game. The Trojans were turned away on four straight plays for Notre Dame’s 1-yard line to seal the victory.
Field goal fest
All the game’s touchdowns were scored in the first half of play. Notre Dame jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. Kicker Kyle Brindza, who stayed very busy for the Fighting Irish, opened scoring with a 27-yard field goal and Theo Riddick rushed in a touchdown from nine yards out. The Trojans responded in the second quarter on an 11-yard pass to Robert Woods from the arm of Max Wittek, who was filling in for the injured Matt Barkley. Future NFLer Barkley sustained a shoulder injury during last week’s loss to UCLA.
From there on out, both teams fired a barrage of field goals at each other. Brindza added four more successful tries, including a career long 52-yarder to close the first half.
Both teams also managed to limit miscues on the night to a minimum. The Trojans fumbled once, but retained possession. Wittek, however, tossed two interceptions, one of which was picked off by Te’o early in the second half. It was Te’o’s seventh interception of the season.