Irish Defeat Trojans, Punch Ticket to South Beach

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
Total Yards 439 281
Rushing Yards 222 95
3rd Downs 5-14 1-8
Turnovers 0 2
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!):

Mark May pays up…in a leprechaun suit:

Lou’s troll game is oh so strong:

And finally, the best ICON ever:

See you in Miami.

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  • tjak

    I got to hold my two daughters as the clock ticked down. After 24 years in the desert for me, they get to celebrate with their dad. They are 5 and 8 years old. My wedding, their births and this moment are the greatest moments of my life. Thank you to Her Loyal Sons for staying true over the years, you guys helped me and others to get through tough times.

  • subadai

    Mark May is such a douche. But, to be fair, he was probably overcome w/ emotion since he finally got to fulfill his lifelong dream of wearing a Fightin’ Irish uni.

    Go Irish!

  • marsnd

    What a dream come true. The last time I cried over a Notre Dame game was when “Rockets” kick return was called back, and we lost. I’m 33 now, and still love this team like no other. Words can’t explain how great this feels. Just to be back in the Championship. I never left this teams side. Of all the years too. Never would have guessed this would be the year we navigate through that schedule and go 12-0. “Play for a championship”

  • trey

    I noticed two things on the GL stand that I haven seen discussed yet. First of all, on 1st down, I mentioned to my mate who was sitting beside me, ‘We’ve seen this before. You watch, it’ll be like Stanford all over again.’ That QB sneak was EXACTLY the same distance we held Taylor out in ND Stadium.
    Second thing, during the timeout, the cameras showed BK yelling at the referee. I’m no lip reader, but to me, it appeared he was warning the crew about the potential for a Bush Push. He did a GREAT job, even if it didnt happen, to get the officials to think about a possible penalty before it happens.

    • subadai

      I was thinking that Kelly was making a point about the “Bush Push” too, but I have to admit I was worried that he was going to go too far and get flagged at some point. He looked close to a meltdown in the last five min.

      As for something that hasn’t been discussed…. how bout CONDITIONING? It really looked to me that we were in MUCH better shape than USC and it really showed late in the 4th q on both sides of the ball. UCSs d was totally gassed on that drive where we ran it down their throats but had to call a TO on offense when Riddick and Gholson were out of synch. The let them catch their breath. I think we score a TD there if that TO isn’t called. And on the goalline stand running plays our linemen destroyed USCs. They had bend in their hips and real snap of the ball. I think that a HUGE part of the story of why we are so good in late game situations is that we are just in way better shape than every team we play.

  • vegasmark

    I was in section 14 in the Coliseum with my wife, 6 year old daughter, and dad. It was my wife and daughter’s first Irish game, and it was a beauty!!! It was simply amazing to hear the huge “Let’s go Irish!” chant running through the stadium. It was really one of the coolest things I have ever seen in person. Manti was, I’m pretty sure, the last player to leave the field to a giant ovation, and it wasn’t just Irish fans cheering for him. It was a fantastic experience to be able to see in person, 12 aND 0 baby!!!

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