Notre Dame wide receiver Robby Toma, top, jumps onto running back Theo Riddick, bottom, to celebrate after Riddick dove into the end zone for a touchdown, as Southern California linebacker Dion Bailey, left, runs past eduring the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Updated: December 26, 2012 9:55AM
LOS ANGELES — USC redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek talked a big game leading into Saturday night’s, exuding confidence and even saying the Trojans would win.
But he looked like exactly what he is — a highly touted, highly talented quarterback making his first career start.
His first throw had a bit too much adrenaline on it, missing Robert Woods high and hard on an easy flare route. His second throw was a 60-yard bomb to Marqise Lee that Bennett Jackson broke up in the end zone. His third pass fell short.
But after that, Wittek started to look like the future star USC expects him to be.
He completed his next seven passes, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Woods, capping an impressive six-play, 75-yard drive that cut the Notre Dame lead to 10-7.
He again showed his big arm late in the first half, heaving another 60-yarder down the sideline, but it needed to be about 65 yards — KeiVarae Russell picked it off. That turnover set up Notre Dame for a nice two-minute drill, capped by Kyle Brindza’s 52-yard field goal at the horn.
Wittek finished the game 14-for-23 for 186 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His 53-yard bomb to Lee with five minutes left in the game set the Trojans up with first-and-goal, but the Irish defense kept them out of the end zone to wrap up the win.
Irish linebacker Manti Te’o recorded his 100th tackle of the season during the second quarter, becoming only the third player in school history to reach the century mark in three consecutive seasons. He also added his seventh interception of the season, the most by a linebacker since at least 2000, according to Notre Dame officials.
Early to rise
Notre Dame finished the regular season without giving up a single first-quarter touchdown. USC’s first score came on the first play of the second quarter. Only Miami, Oklahoma and Pitt (three points each) got anything against the Irish defense in the opening quarter.
Brindza’s 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half was the second-longest in Notre Dame history. His five fields goals give him 23 on the season, breaking John Carney’s school record of 21, set in 1986.
Brindza also made a tackle on a kick return by Lee that saved a second-half touchdown. “I was a deer in headlights,” he said. “But I realized I had to make a tackle.”