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Notre Dame edges BYU to set up showdown with Oklahoma

Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood right breaks tackle BYU defensive back Daniel Sorensen during first half an NCAA college

Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood, right, breaks the tackle of BYU defensive back Daniel Sorensen during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: October 20, 2012 5:50PM

Notre Dame escaped BYU’s trap — barely.

Coming off a dramatic overtime win over Stanford, and a week before a huge top-10 showdown at Oklahoma, the Irish did exactly what they said they wouldn’t — come out flat. But with Everett Golson sidelined after suffering a concussion, and with Tommy Rees largely ineffective after a strong first quarter, the Irish rode their talented trio of running backs to an ugly, but critical 17-14 comeback victory on Saturday.

Against the vaunted BYU defense — ranked third nationally against the run — Notre Dame racked up 276 rushing yards. Theo Riddick was the star, rushing for a career-high 143 yards on just 15 carries. Cierre Wood also broke the century mark, with 114 yards on 18 carries.

With Notre Dame trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, Riddick pushed through the pile, narrowly kept his knee above the grass, and broke free for a 55-yard gain, setting up a 24-yard Notre Dame field goal that cut the Cougars’ lead to 14-10.

After the Notre Dame defense — which saw its 17-quarter streak without allowing a touchdown come to an end in the second quarter, when it allowed two TDs in 2 minutes, 18 seconds — forced a three-and-out, the Irish again marched down the field. Rees hit T.J. Jones for a 31-yard pass on the first play of the drive, and Riddick’s 19-yard bull-rush up the middle set up George Atkinson III’s 2-yard, go-ahead touchdown


After one more defensive stop, Notre Dame was able to kill most of the last six minutes with Riddick and Wood. BYU got the ball back with 22 seconds left at its own 20, but Danny Spond picked off a Riley Nelson pass to seal it with two seconds left.

Notre Dame attempted just three passes in the entire second half.

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