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Perfect Notre Dame beats USC 22-13, will play for national title

Irish linebacker Manti Te’o (5) understands significance Notre Dame-USC. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

Irish linebacker Manti Te’o (5) understands the significance of Notre Dame-USC. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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Updated: December 25, 2012 6:22AM

LOS ANGELES — The schedule was too difficult. The quarterback was too young. The secondary was too inexperienced. The program was fading into irrelevance, a golden dome tarnished by mediocrity and — perhaps worst of all — national indifference.

Yet there was Everett Golson — a redshirt freshman who didn’t even win the starting quarterback job until a camp-long battle with Andrew Hendrix, of all people — slicing up the USC defense with darts and dashes.

There was Theo Riddick — a receiver the last two years, who won the starting tailback job by default, then clung to it with the same tenacity with which he runs, when incumbent Cierre Wood was suspended for the first two games of the season — spinning out of tackles and powering through the Trojans defensive line for big gain after big gain, 146 yards in all.

There was freshman KeiVarae Russell — a true freshman and converted tailback — making a key interception late in the first half to set up a key field goal.

And there was Manti Te’o — the star linebacker everybody expected to go to USC four years ago — making yet another interception, bolstering his Heisman campaign, but more importantly, bolstering Notre Dame’s national championship campaign.

Yes, Notre Dame is back on top of the football world, cementing its No. 1 ranking and earning a spot in the BCS championship game with a 22-13 victory over USC on Saturday night at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The fact that the 12th and most important victory of the season came against the hated Trojans, in front of 93,607 mostly hostile fans, only made it that much sweeter for the Irish.

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