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Notre Dame finishes off USC to complete unbeaten season

Notre Dame finishes off USC to complete unbeaten season
Trojans running back Silas Redd is brought down by Irish cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell (left) and Bennett Jackson after a big gain in the second quarter Saturday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Notre Dame 22, USC 13 (final)

This time there was no historic upset, no sweet present for the SEC, no coming out party for a USC Heisman Trophy hopeful.

Just another painful loss in a season that has seen surprisingly too many of them for the Trojans.

The loss left USC, a team that started the season ranked No. 1, an almost stunning 7-5, while the top-ranked Irish will advance to the BCS championship game for the first time. The Irish last won a national title in 1988.

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Notre Dame used five field goals from sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza to push its record to a perfect 12-0.

Notre Dame 22, USC 13 (2:33 left in fourth quarter)

That was USC’s final shot at victory, and it had to hurt.

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After a 48-yard completion to Marqise Lee had USC at the Notre Dame four-yard line, and a pair of pass interference calls gave the Trojans first and goal at the two, USC tried four times to punch in a toucdown, and four times was rejected.

The final play on fourth down was a pass to the end zone that went off fullback Soma Vainuku’s hands.

Notre Dame 22, USC 13 (5:58 left in fourth quarter)

They don’t have to put up touchdowns by the bushel, just points. And even if the end zone continues to prove elusive for the Irish, the scoreboard is starting to look pretty imposing for USC.

Notre Dame quickly answered USC’s field goal with one of their own. This time they drove 54 yards, stalled at the USC four-yard line and came away with a 19-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza.

It was Brindza’s fifth field goal of the game, tying a Notre Dame single-game record.

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Notre Dame 19, USC 13 (9:20 left in fourth quarter)

Well, that was interesting. On a third-and-goal play from the Notre Dame four-yard line, freshman quarterback Max Wittek hit Marqise Lee with a pass that the sideline official ruled a touchdown, even though he appeared to quickly drop the ball.

The trouble for USC? Coach Lane Kiffin was doing one his running down the sideline to call a timeout routines. The officials ruled he called for timeout before the play started, nullifying the touchdown.

If the scoring play had been reviewed, it might have very well have been overturned. Still, when play resumed, Wittek threw just beyond the finger tips of Lee in the end zone and the Trojans had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Andre Heidari.

Notre Dame 19, USC 10 (end of third quarter)

The Irish continue to dominate, yet have managed only a nine-point lead. At least USC is giving the SEC some hope.

Four times Notre Dame has driven down field, only to have to settle for a field goal.

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The USC, offense, meanwhile, is struggling to find any real cohesion. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek has yet to look completely comfortable at quarterback. Through three quarters, Wittek had completed nine of 15 passes for 78 yards.

Notre Dame 19, USC 10 (31 seconds left in third quarter)

The Irish went one for two in scoring chances in the third quarter.

The Trojans avoided an early mistake when Max Wittek’s first pass of the second half was intercepted by Notre Dame star linebacker Mani Te’o at the USC 17-yard line. Te’o seemed to be the only player in the area.

Notre Dame, however, was unable to convert the opportunity into points. USC held the Irish without a first down and then Kyle Brindza -- who had three first-half field goals, including a 52-yarder -- missed on a 34-yard attempt.

After USC stalled, Notre Dame came right back, driving to the USC 16-yard line.

Again, the Trojans finally dug in and held, but this time Brindza was good on a 33-yard field goal.

Notre Dame 16, USC 10 (halftime)

USC gambled and lost at the end of the first half.

Finally forcing the Irish to punt for the first time Saturday, the Trojans took over at their own 25-yard line with 1:34 to play in the second quarter. On the first play, redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek dropped back and tried to throw a bomb to Marqise Lee.

But freshman cornerback KeiVare Russell stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it at the Notre Dame 17. At least everyone knows Wittek has an arm.

With 1:17 to play in the half, the Irish quickly marched down field. Again. For the third time the USC defense stalled the drive, but sophomore Kyle Brindza kicked a 52-yard field goal at the end of the half to put Notre Dame up by six.

It was the second-longest field goal in Brindza’s career.

USC had trouble putting pressure on Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson throughout the first half. He c0mpleted 13 of 19 passes for 169 yards in the first half. Golson, however, appeared to limp off the field at the end of Notre Dame’s last drive, holding his left hamstring.

Notre Dame was also killing the Trojans in time of possession. The Irish had the ball for 19 minutes and 43 seconds in the first half to only 10:17 for USC.

Wittek was 7 for 11 for 64 yards at the half.

Notre Dame 13, USC 10 (3:50 left in second quarter)

The Trojans got into the kicking aspect of this game, too, driving 54 yards to set up Andre Heidari for a 39-yard field goal.

The Trojans were at the Notre Dame 19 when on a third-and-eight play freshman quarterback Max Wittek fumbled the snap for a 10-yard loss and USC settled for the field goal.

Running back Silas Redd, who has been nursing an apparent leg injury, made his first appearance of the game on the drive and rushed four times for 43 yards.

Notre Dame 13, USC 7 (9:19 left in second quarter)

The USC defense isn’t having much better success against Notre Dame than it did in the first half last week against UCLA. At least there haven’t been any USC turnovers yet.

But the Irish have received the ball three times and scored each time. On their third possession, they marched 67 yards before stalling at the USC 12-yard line.

They settled for a 29-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza, his second of the first half. At that point, the Irish had 220 yards in total offense to 80 yards for USC.

Notre Dame 10, USC 7 (14:55 left in second quarter)

The Trojans came storming back on their second drive, getting on the scoreboard when redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek completed an 11-yard scoring pass to Robert Woods on the first play of the second quarter.

Wittek appeared understandably nervous early, but completed his last five passes in a row on the drive and is now five of eight for 48 yards.

Notre Dame 10, USC 0 (end of first quarter)

The Trojans are moving the ball on their second drive, and as the first quarter ends they were on the Notre Dame 11-yard line.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek hit three of his six passes. He showed plenty of arm on one incompletion, throwing the ball almost 60 yards through the air.

Notre Dame 10, USC 0 (1:48 left in first quarter)

It’s early, but maybe not too early for USC fans to be getting nervous.

The Irish are moving the ball with relative ease against their Trojans. Just as they had on their first possession, Notre Dame followed a USC punt and drove smoothly down the field. Just like a No. 1 team is supposed to do.

This time the Irish did not have to settle for a field goal, driving 87 yards in 12 plays before running back Theo Reddick burst up the middle for a nine-yard scoring run.

The Irish are moving the ball both through the air and on the ground with the same success. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has completed seven of eight passes for 100 yards and three running backs have totaled 53 yards rushing.

Notre Dame 3, USC 0 (11:25 left in first quarter)

Notre Dame was making it look awfully easy on its opening drive, before the USC defense finally stiffened and held at their own nine-yard line.

The No. 1-ranked Irish had to settle for completing their 66-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza.

Pregame

Hoping for some kind of dramatic surprise? For Matt Barkley to suddenly emerge through the Coliseum tunnel, in pads with helmet in hand, maybe through some stage smoke?

Sorry, Hollywood took the night off, at least in the pregame variety.

As USC and Notre Dame came out in uniform for their pregame warmups this evening, Barkley emerged in team sweats with his arm in a sling to protect his injured right shoulder

The starting debut of redshirt freshman Max Wittek is really at hand.

Barkley, wearing a black windbreaker over his sweats, did not completely waste his pregame time, however. He strolled out to the 50-yard line to have a little friendly conversation with one of the game’s officials.

Game conditions are pretty ideal. It’s clear with the night’s sunset just beginning to slip away.


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