Notre Dame simply did what it has done all season. Minimize mistakes on offense, establish their running game, and have their defense dominate.
The result: a 22-13 Irish victory to cap off an undefeated 2012 regular season and a berth in the BCS title game.
While the game was close, and many Irish fans were understandably nervous considering the stakes, Notre Dame flat out dominated Southern Cal. Just take a look at the below stats:
|Notre Dame||Southern Cal|
|Time of Posession||34:38||25:22|
To add to that, Notre Dame once again finished the first quarter without allowing any TDs just as they have all season, becoming the only team in FBS to accomplish that feat in 2012. Further, Notre Dame came out and dominated the third quarter once again, allowing no points, and giving up only 24 total yards to the Trojans.
Theo Riddick, as he has done all season, led the Irish rushing attack with 146 yards on 20 carries (8.3 yards/carry). As if that wasn’t enough, Riddick also snagged 3 passes for 33 yards, giving him 179 total yards on the day.
Everett Golson had yet another solid performance. He didn’t burn up the stat sheet, going only 15-26 for 217 yards (8.3 yards/pass) and rushed for 47 yards on 9 carries (5.2 yards/carry). He had zero total TDs, but also had zero turnovers. As we’ve seen this season, if Golson does that, the Irish tend to win rather comfortably when all is said and done.
Especially when you have a defense like the Irish do.
In my preview of this matchup, if there was one thing I was worried about, it was Southern Cal’s potential for the big play. However, the Irish held the Trojans to only two gains of 20 yards or more: a 24 yard run by Silas Redd in the second quarter and a 53 yard bomb to Marquise Lee near the end of the game.
Neither of those drives resulted in a TD.
The Irish gave up only a FG after the big Redd run. After the Lee strike, the Irish had a goal line stand that can only be topped by what they did in OT to Stanford.
That stand started on the Irish’s 2 yard line with a false start pushing the Trojans back ot the 7. A Curtis McNeal rush put the Trojans on the 4 were they tried to throw two fade routes to Marquise Lee, each broken up by a defensive PI to save the TD. That put the Trojans on the 1 yard line, and four plays later, they failed to gain that single yard to make this a ball game again.
Included in that goal stand stand was a QB sneak in which USC attempted to “Bush Push” again. However, this time it failed, exorcising yet another demon of the past.
2012 has simply been a season in which we’ve seen just about everything go the Irish’s way. Brent Musburger went as far to call the Irish “destiny’s darlings”. And you might not blame him either, especially considering the goal line stand was capped off by a rushed pass that was dropped by the SC fullback and, in the Trojan drive prior, Lane Kiffin called a timeout right before a play that would have likely resulted in a TD (although Lee did drop that pass anyways).
However, I have a different reasoning than Brent: the Irish have created their own luck and we’ve seen it all season.
The Irish defense causes mistakes to be made, passes dropped, and coaches frantically calling timeouts when they shouldn’t. In previous years, the Irish would be the ones cracking under pressure — this year they are causing it.
Not only that, this defense has all the confidence in the world that they can stop anyone, especially when their opponent is right on the goal line. It’s why they have no problem purposefully committing defensive pass interference and daring the Trojans to run at them. It’s why Diaco can put Manti Te’o on Marquise Lee without blinking an eye.
Bottom line: it’s why this team is 12-0.
And speaking of Manti, he got his 7th interception and pushed his tackle total over 100. He may not have found the endzone this season, but I firmly believe he put a solid finishing touch on his Heisman campaign. As Brian Kelly put it:
If a guy like Manti Te’o isn’t going to win the Heisman, they should just make it an offensive award. Just give it to the offensive player every year and just cut to the chase. He is the backbone of a 12-0 football team that has proven itself each week. He showed it again tonight with a key interception and a great play in the end zone. If the Heisman Trophy is what it is, I don’t know how Manti Te’o is held out of that conversation.
I couldn’t agree more.
Now, we have over a month to let this sink in as we anxiously await for our shot at the BCS title. For now though enjoy the following moments of glory below and savor each one.
Rick Reilly needs to pay up (and as a former student manager, I must say, have fun with this!):
— Kapron Lewis-Moore (@KLM_89) November 25, 2012
Hopefully you will hold true to your promise @ReillyRick we will be working on the helmets early next week…see you soon!
— Ryan Grooms (@ryangrooms22) November 25, 2012
Mark May pays up…in a leprechaun suit:
Lou’s troll game is oh so strong:
— Lou Holtz (@ESPNDrLou) November 25, 2012
And finally, the best ICON ever:
See you in Miami.