Trojan effort gives unbeaten Notre Dame a fighting title shot

Their season began in Dublin but will conclude with a BCS championship game in Miami, Florida.

George Atkinson III (left) of Notre Dame celebrates scoring a touchdown with teammate Theo Riddick.
George Atkinson III (left) of Notre Dame celebrates scoring a touchdown with teammate Theo Riddick.
Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

WHAT BEGAN IN September at the Aviva Stadium Dublin for Notre Dame reached dizzying heights in California last night as they finished their regular season unbeaten.

The Fighting Irish defeated the University of Southern California 22-13, mainly thanks to Kyle Brindza’s five field goals, to complete their first perfect regular season [12-0] since 1988.

Everett Golson, passing for 217 yards, and Theo Riddick were the other on-field stars for Irish as he rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown.

Notre Dame’s hard-nosed defence, however, the decisive stand in the final minutes, keeping USC out of the end zone on four plays from the Irish 1-yard line with 2:33 on the clock.

Inspirational linebacker Manti Te’o also became the team’s second player in history to record three 100-tackle seasons.

Coach Brian Kelly’s charges advance to the BCS championship game in Miami, Florida next January and have a golden opportunity to win the football programme’s first national title in 24 years.

“That’s who we are,” Kelly said post-game. “It’s been our defence all year. Our offence is able to manage enough points.”

It started at Lansdowne Road

Notre Dame’s season began with a 50-10 victory over Navy at Dublin’s sold-out Aviva Stadium in early September.

Along the way there have been similarly large wins over Miami and Wake Forest but they did need triple overtime at the beginning of November to knock off Pittsburgh 29-26 at home.

The grind-it-out win over USC – The Trojans – at the Coliseum on Saturday highlighted an unforgettable season for the Irish.

The Indiana college footballers began the year, according to Associated Press, with questions about their relevancy and survived some uninspiring performances and nail-biting finishes with their unbeaten record intact.

Notre Dame is likely to face a Southeastern Conference opponent in Miami, but won’t know for another week which one.

Alabama and Georgia play for the SEC title in Atlanta.

49,000 fans watch on as Notre Dame cruise to victory in Aviva

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Patrick McCarry

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