Notre Dame will play for its 12th national championship after a spirited 22-13 win over USC. The Irish were once again paced by an impressive defensive effort. They also benefited from a career game from senior running back Theo Riddick.
"I’m so happy for my guys, my coaches, and the University of Notre Dame," Irish Coach Brian Kelly said during a post-game press conference.
The Irish defense has carried Notre Dame all season long, and Saturday night was no exception. The goal line stop they pulled off in the game's closing minutes will live in Irish lore. USC has the ball 1st and Goal on the Notre Dame 1-yard-line with less than 4:00 to go in the game, but the Irish would not break. First it was stops on two rushes from rookie Trojan quarterback Max Wittek, then the Irish slammed running back Curtis McNeal down to force 4th down, and on that 4th down attempt Wittek threw a pass to the endzone that fell incomplete.
"Our guys have incredible resolve to find ways to win," Kelly explained. "That’s how we play. Incredible goal line stand."
Senior running back Theo Riddick also made sure his name will always be remembered by Fighting Irish fans. Riddick saved his best game for Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He had 179 yards of total offense and Notre Dame's only touchdown of the night, and he seemed to be involved in almost every big Irish play.
The night's final hero was Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza. The sophomore was responsible for 16 Irish points. He was 5-of-6 on field goals, including a 52-yarder, and he added an extra point to boot.
Now the preparation begins. The Irish will play on January 7 in Miami. We still don't know who their opponent will be, but we know the Irish will be the Number One team in the land when the ball is kicked off in South Florida.
"That feels great,” Kelly admitted. “Only two teams can play for a national championship. Now we have that chance."
According to Kelly, the atmosphere in the locker room after the game included "a lot of singing, dancing, and hugging." Of course, the celebration has already begun in South Bend. Click the video link at the top of this story to see what the scene was like at Corby’s Irish Pub after Notre Dame beat USC and clinched a spot in the National Championship Game.
Fans who couldn't make the trip to L.A. to see their team play watched in local bars, like legendary Corby's.
There, crowds erupted into cheers and shared embraces when they realized the Fighting Irish will play for the championship title in Miami.