USC close, but Notre Dame defense closes

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Manti Te'o joined Bob Crable as the only players in school history with three 100-tackle seasons.USC can take credit for staying within reach of Notre Dame for 60 minutes of football, but in the end, close was just not enough.

The 22-13 win was the narrowest margin of victory for Notre Dame in a road game this season. But an early touchdown and drives good enough to produce five field goals were well supported by a defense that showed at game's end why it ranks among the best in the country in just about every notable stat.

Let’s take a snapshot look at some of the key notes, stats and nuggets for this win.

The History

No. 1 Notre Dame Playing USC
Series History

Notre Dame should be the first school outside of a BCS AQ conference to play in a title game in the BCS era. It also will be the first school to be unranked in the preseason AP poll to play in the BCS title game.

The Irish recorded consecutive road wins against USC for the first time since 1990 and 1992.

The 12 wins by the Irish match their most in a season. They also won 12 in 1988 (when they last started 12-0) and 1989 (when they finished 12-1).

USC lost for the fifth time this season, the most defeats for a preseason AP No. 1 since Ole Miss went 5-5-1 in 1964.

Key drive of the game

USC was on the verge of turning this into a one-score game late in the fourth quarter, but got stymied four times on fourth-and-goal from the 1, including three straight failed runs.

This was part of what has made Notre Dame’s defense so dominant this season. The Irish allowed a total of three yards on eight “and-goal” plays and that was actually a bad game for them.

Notre Dame has held opponents to -28 yards rushing and -5 total yards in goal-to-go situations, both best in FBS.

Golson’s improvements

Freshman quarterback Everett Golson was again sharp on his lengthier throws. He finished 10-for-16 for 179 yards on throws that traveled at least 10 yards on Saturday night. This was the third straight game in which Golson completed at least 60 percent of his passes. In his first eight games, Golson completed only 44 percent of his throws of at least 10 yards.

Riddick rolls again

Notre Dame's Theo Riddick ran for 146 yards, his fourth game with at least 100 rushing yards this season. That’s the most 100-yard games for a Notre Dame player since Darius Walker had six in 2006.

Reddick rushed 15 times between the tackles for 121 yards, piling up 53 yards after contact. By comparison, USC had 18 rushes inside the tackles, but gained only 19 total yards, its second-fewest yards after contact in a game this season (it had 18 vs Stanford).

Putting his best foot forward

Kyle Brindza made five field goals, the longest of which was a 52-yarder that extended the lead to 16-10 at the half. This was only the fourth field goal try of at least 52 yards by the Irish since 2004 and the second one that was made.

The other was a 52-yarder by David Ruffer against Maryland last season.

Marqise Lee limited

Marqise Lee had a 53-yard reception in the fourth quarter, but little else. Lee, who averaged 144 receiving yards in his first 11 games of the season, finished with 75 against the Irish. His 16 yards after the catch were his fewest in any game this season.