Notre Dame has claimed a record eight national championships since 1936 when the Associated Press began handing out its trophy, and the Fighting Irish have the deepest and richest history in college football.
And with all that, it’s safe to say this year’s edition has created the biggest splash and story-line because Notre Dame is 7-0 for the first time since 2002 after edging visitingBrighamYoungUniversity, 17-14, last Saturday afternoon.
So far, so good, but Notre Dame, No. 5 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, will lock horns with Oklahoma on the road Saturday, and will be truly challenged to keep up with the No. 8 Sooners, who put up points in bunches under quarterback Landry Jones.
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly, in his third season atSouth Bend, isn’t concerned with the next opponent.
Rather, he’s excited that Notre Dame is off to a solid start, and will likely play it close to the vest offensively.
“We’re 7-0 and we played a good BYU team,” said Kelly afterward. “We ran the ball in the second half, and we played really good defense.”
Indeed, the Fighting Irish had 270 yards on the ground, and were paced by Theo Riddick’s personal-best and game-high 143 yards on 15 carries.
Cierre Wood accounted for 114 yards on 18 rushes, and George Atkinson III added 11 yards on five carries, but tallied a two-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter for the game-winner.
“Our offensive line did a great job,” said Riddick, “and we took advantage of that. We have three good running backs, and we all took advantage of the holes.”
It’s a different story when the Fighting Irish are on defense as they are limiting foes to less than 10 points per contest, as the Cougars found out first hand, totaling no points and three first downs in the second half.
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees started in place of highly-touted redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who is coming off a concussion, was conservative.
Rees hit seven of 16 passes for 117 yards with one interception, and his four-yard scoring toss to tight end Tyler Eifert (73 yards and four receptions) with 1:30 left in the first quarter made it 7-0.
The Fighting Irish left points on the floor in the opening half as kicker Kyle Brindza missed field goals of 28 and 40 yards.
Brindza’s 24-yarder with 2:25 showing in the third quarter closed out a 65-yard trek and narrowed BYU’s lead to 14-10.
The drive was made possible because of Riddick’s 55-yard sprint on third and one from the Notre Dame 37-yard line.
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson (23 of 36 for 177 yards) was sacked four times and intercepted twice, but he also threw a pair of touchdowns.
Nelson’s six-yard toss went to wide receiver Cody Hoffman (86 yards on eight catches), came with 8:25 showing before the half, and capped a 56-yard, eight-play march to make it 7-7.
The Cougars (4-4) took a 14-7 lead with 6:07 left in the second quarter on Nelson’s two-yard pass to wide receiver Kaneakua Friel after BYU (243 total net yards) drove 30 yards.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.