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Irish's win seals spotin national title game

Center Braxston Cave hugs Theo Riddick after his 9-yard run puts Notre Dame up 10-0 during the first quarter.

MCT

Center Braxston Cave hugs Theo Riddick after his 9-yard run puts Notre Dame up 10-0 during the first quarter.

LOS ANGELES — Theo Riddick rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown and Kyle Brindza made five field goals as No. 1 Notre Dame secured a spot in the BCS championship game with a 22-13 victory over USC on Saturday.

The Irish will go for their first national title since 1988 Jan. 7 in Miami and likely face the winner of the SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia.

Up 16-10, the Irish had a chance to blow it open after linebacker Manti Te'o intercepted his seventh pass of the season on the second play of the second half. But Brindza missed a 34-yard field goal. He made a 33-yarder late in the third to extend the lead to 19-10.

The Trojans had to settle for a field goal with 9:20 left — a few moments after coach Lane Kiffin called a timeout right before a play that ended with Marqise Lee catching a pass on the goal line.

Brindza made it 22-13 with a 19-yarder with 5:58 left. But Lee caught a 53-yard pass on the next snap, and two pass interference penalties set up a first down at the 1.

The Trojans didn't score.

They failed on three runs against a defense that has allowed just 11 rushing touchdowns over its past 30 games. Then Max Wittek, starting for the injured Matt Barkley, threw an incompletion.

"They've had a great goal-line defense all year," Kiffin said. "They've done that to everybody down on the goal line. It's just so hard to score touchdowns versus them. When the ball is on the 2-inch line, you'd think you could score touchdowns."

For the game, USC had six carries for 3 yards in goal-to-go-situations. For the season Notre Dame has allowed minus-28 yards rushing in goal-to-go situations.

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

USC has lost four of its past five games. And its five losses overall are the most by a preseason No. 1 team since Mississippi went 5-5-1 in 1964. It also will be the first preseason No. 1 to finish out of the Top 25 since that same Mississippi team.

Irish's win seals spotin national title game 11/24/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 12:30am]
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