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Notre Dame vs. USC: Postgame Grades for Irish's Win over Trojans

Chris StephensCorrespondent IINovember 24, 2012

Notre Dame vs. USC: Postgame Grades for Irish's Win over Trojans

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    The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going to the BCS title game

    After beating the USC Trojans 22-13, the Irish will be playing for the national title, likely against the winner of the SEC title game.

    This game was all about the Irish defense, especially a goal-line stand at the end.

    Here's a look at the final game grades.

    To check out the USC game grades, check out Jonathan McDanal's story.

Quarterback

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    Overall Game Grade: A-

    Everett Golson was 15 of 26 for 217 yards. While he didn't throw any touchdowns, Golson controlled the clock and put the Irish in position to win.

    It all started in the first quarter when Golson completed seven passes for 100 yards. Six of those completions were for first downs.

    While the second half saw Notre Dame go more towards a running game, Golson made key passes for first downs to continue to run down the clock.

    For all that is said about the quarterback position at Notre Dame, it's safe to say Golson lived up to that billing in Saturday's win.

Running Backs

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    Overall Game Grade: A+

    There's no denying the Notre Dame running backs helped seal the game late for the Irish.

    Theo Riddick finished with a game-high 146 yards, blistering the USC defense all night. Perhaps his biggest play came after the defense made the huge goal-line stand, in which he rushed for 12 yards to move the chains and ultimately put the game away.

    On offense, Riddick was the MVP as he also had 33 yards receiving Without his running, Notre Dame doesn't win this game.

    The running game has been the Irish's strong suit all year and it was again against USC.

    Now, one game to go.

Wide Receivers

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    Overall Game Grade: B-

    The Irish receivers weren't as involved as one might have liked, but the running game was so good they didn't have to be that involved.

    TJ Jones was the leader among the wide receivers with three catches for 40 yards. Robby Toma also had two catches for 34 yards.

    The receivers are doing their part in blocking during rushing attempts and making key catches when they have to. If they continue to do what they've been doing, Notre Dame could very well raise the crystal ball in Miami.

Tight Ends

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    Overall Game Grade: A-

    What more can you say about Tyler Eifert. He's one of the biggest matchup problems in all of college football and it showed against USC.

    While Eifert only had four catches for 69 yards, he still caused trouble in the middle of the field as safeties couldn't give help on the outside as much. USC ensured they knew where Eifert was on the field at all times and that slacked off their coverage a little on the other receivers.

    Eifert is without a doubt the best tight end in the country and Saturday's game showed why that was the case.

Offensive Line

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    Overall Game Grade: A-

    Golson was sacked once in the game. For any offensive line, that's a good day at the office.

    Notre Dame's line helped spring Riddick for 146 yards. In total, the Irish gained 222 yards on the ground, which is higher than their season average (200.8).

    The blocking was good throughout as Golson had time when he dropped back to pass.

    But, that tends to happen when you have the same five guys starting every game of the season. Continuity on the offensive line helped Golson have success throughout the regular season.

Defensive Line

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    Overall Game Grade: B+

    The Notre Dame defensive line allowed 95 yards rushing.

    Let that sink in for a minute. USC was a team that averaged 160 yards per game and the Irish held them to under 100.

    Without the rushing attack to worry about, the Notre Dame secondary and linebackers were able to do their job.

    The Irish defensive line got two sacks on the quarterback, but more importantly saw nine rushes go for two yards or less.

    Now that's a recipe for success.

Linebackers

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    Overall Game Grade: A-

    The Irish defense starts and ends with linebacker Manti Te'o.

    And, when the Irish needed him to come up with a big play on defense. He did it time and time again against USC.

    Te'o had an interception in the third quarter and helped lead the Irish defense on a huge stand at the goal line late in the fourth quarter that sealed the Irish's win.

    After Te'o's performance, I don't see how he doesn't finish first or second in the Heisman voting. The award goes to the best player in the country, and who has been more consistent throughout the year?

    Te'o showed why he deserves the award and hopefully voters will give him and all defensive players their due this year.

Secondary

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    Overall Game Grade: B-

    While there were some good plays made by the Notre Dame secondary, there were some issues that will need to get worked out before the national championship game.

    Twice on the goal line, the Irish were called for pass interference. Now, it ended up working out as the rest of the defense held strong, but the secondary has to make better plays on the ball.

    Then there are the seven passes that went for 10 yards or more, including a 53-yard pass to Marqise Lee. The big plays have to end.

    Notre Dame did get an interception from KeiVarae Russell, but that was mainly just catching the ball as it was a bad throw from USC quarterback Max Wittek.

    The Irish only allowed 186 yards through the air, which is a good sight. But, how much of that had to do with the inexperience of Wittek making his first start?

    In the end, the Irish only allowed one touchdown and that's all that matters.

Special Teams

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    Overall Game Grade: A+

    Prior to the game I said it could come down to field goals for Notre Dame, and that's exactly what happened.

    Kyle Brindza hit five of six field goals, including a career-long 52 yards to send the Irish to the win and the BCS title game. Brindza's only miss came when he pushed the ball to the left slightly, just missing the goal posts.

    After a touchdown late in the first quarter, Brindza would be the only one to provide points for the Irish the rest of the way.

    As the old saying goes, the kicker's job is the loneliest in the world. You can bet Brindza won't feel that way as he celebrates with his teammates.

Coaching

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    Overall Game Grade: B+

    Notre Dame coaches came in and did exactly what they set out to do. Sometimes it didn't look pretty, but in the end the Irish got the win and that's all that matters.

    The Irish struggled at times on both sides of the ball. However, the offense moved the ball when it had to and the defense made stops when it had to.

    The coaching staff should be proud of what they accomplished this year and now Brian Kelly and his staff can start talking about getting ready for the national championship game.

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