LOS ANGELES – Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o etched his name into the school’s record book in Saturday night’s 22-13 victory over USC.
Te’o record five tackles as the No. 1 Irish (12-0) secured their spot in the Jan. 7 national championship game in Miami with the win over the Trojans (7-5).
Those five tackles gave Te’o 103 for the season, marking the third time he has collected 100 or more tackles in a year. He joined Bob Crable as the only other Irish defender with three 100-plus tackle seasons.
That accomplishment and for everything he does for a Notre Dame defense the ranks first in points allowed has Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly convinced that Te’o’s name should be etched on this year’s Heisman Trophy or the award needs to be redefined.
"If a guy like Manti Te'o's not going to win the Heisman, they should just make it an offensive award," Kelly said. "Give it to the offensive player every year and let's just cut to the chase. He is the backbone of a 12-0 football team that has proven itself each and every week, and showed it tonight again with another key interception and a great play in the end zone on (USC receiver) Marqise Lee to save another touchdown.
"If the Heisman Trophy is what it is, I just don't know how Manti Te'o is left out of that conversation."
Te’o did more than make a handful of tackles and breakup a touchdown Saturday.
He also collected his seven interception of the season, the most picks a linebacker has had in a season for 13 years.
And while his coach wants Te’o to bring home the Heisman, the senior isn’t worried about an individual award with a bigger prize waiting a week into the new year.
“I’ve said before, I’d rather go to the national championship,” Te’o said. “If I win, that’ll be a great honor, but if I don’t, I’m glad I get to go to Miami.”
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, set a new standard for his position for the school again on Saturday.
A week after becoming the Irish’s leader in receptions by a tight end, Eifert also become the programs top tight end in receiving yards.
He set the record with a 36-yard catch midway through the third quarter. That catch gave Eifert 1,779 receiving yards for his career and pushed him past Ken MacAfee’s 1,759 receiving yards.
Eifert is now the school’s top tight end in receptions (134) and receiving yards.
Look no further than Riddick
Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick closed the regular season with one of his best performances.
The senior, who spent the previous two seasons at slot receiver out of necessity only to go back to his natural position to also fill a need, ran for 146 yards, scored on a 9-yard run and caught three passes for 33 yards.
“If you want to know about the Fighting Irish, you just need to look at Theo Riddick,” Kelly said. “Here’s a guy that was a wide receiver for me the first two years. We asked him to move back to running back, and in Game 12, he ran just a 140 yards but broke countless tackles and got us the tough yards that we needed today.
“You just look at his jersey after the game, you just go, ‘There is no wonder why this team has got the toughness that it does.’ ”
Coming a long way
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson didn’t always make the perfect play or decision against USC, but the first-year starter also didn’t make any big mistakes.
The sophomore, who didn’t play as a freshman, completed 15 of 26 passes for 217 yards and ran for another 47 yards on nine carries against the Trojans.
The performance to finish the Irish’s first undefeated regular season since 1988 was the latest that proved Golson is no longer the quarterback that had to be pulled in favor of junior Tommy Rees in wins over Purdue and Michigan at the start of the season.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Golson said. “I keep going back to the Purdue game when it was a lot for me. But seeing how I’ve progressed now with the help of the coaches and the O-line and the receivers and running backs, it instills confidence in me.”