SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Brigham Young managed to score two touchdowns in less than three minutes against a Notre Dame defense that hadn't given up a TD in four games.
The Cougars just couldn't stop Notre Dame's rushing game and the No. 5 Fighting Irish rallied for a 17-14 victory.
``They were physical and we had a very difficult time making consistent tackles and a lot of times. Seems like we had good contact, either at the line of scrimmage or shortly thereafter and the running backs kept driving their legs and running hard,'' BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
The hardest runner to bring down was Theo Riddick, Notre Dame's smallest running back bat 5-11 and 200 pounds. But he ran for a career-high 143 yards against a Cougars defense that entered the game third in the nation against the rush.
More importantly, Riddick sparked a ground game that ground out 270 yards, with his housemate, Cierre Wood, getting 114 yards and George Atkinson III scored the go-ahead touchdown as the Irish (7-0) remained unbeaten. It was the second straight disappointing performance for the defense of Brigham Young (4-4). A week earlier in a 42-24 loss to Oregon State, the Cougars gave up 450 yards of total offense.
``We've got to regroup and come back next week stronger,'' BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree said. ``There were way too many times where we had a dude down in the backfield, in a hole, and we let him spring one for 12, 20, 40 yards, so that's not acceptable.''
Riddick had runs of 55 and 27, the two longest rushes of his career. Neither was easy. On the 55-yard run from the 37-yard line, he ran into a pile at the line of scrimmage, put his hand down to keep his balance and then broke out of the pack before being caught by cornerback Jordan Johnson at the 8-yard line.
``Just run and run until you can't no more,'' Riddick said. ``And I got a little gassed at the end.''
The Irish then ran three straight running plays for a gain of one yard and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza to cut BYU's lead to 14-10 late in the third quarter. On his 27-yard run late in the second quarter, Riddick broke two tackles and carried three BYU defenders for the final 10 yards to the BYU 14. But the drive stalled and Brindza missed a 28-yard field goal wide right.
Riddick said it was exciting to see the Irish backs come up so big.
``We have some talent back there, so why not give us the ball?'' he said.
Still, the Irish didn't have the game under control until late.
The Cougars drove to the Notre Dame 31 late, but Riley Nelson was sacked for a 9 yard loss. Moments earlier Cody Hoffman was wide open for what would have probably been a touchdown, but Nelson's pass wasn't close. Nelson said BYU couldn't come up with the big plays when it needed them.
``We put drives together, we just couldn't finish them, whether it was a penalty here or a sack on first or second down,'' Nelson said.
After going 17 quarters without giving up an offensive touchdown, Notre Dame gave up two in a span of 2:18 as Nelson threw a 6-yard scoring pass to a wide-open Cody Hoffman in the end zone and a 2-yard pass to Kaneakua Friel after an interception by Kyle Van Noy.
That put BYU up 14-7 at halftime. Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said the Irish didn't let the two touchdowns affect their play.
``You've got to move on to the next play and make the necessary adjustments, and I think that's what we did. We played the second half pretty clean,'' he said.
BYU's running back Jamaal Williams, who ran for 68 yards, said the Cougars simply didn't finish.
``I think we just let off the gas a little bit. All we have to do is stay focused at the end of the game and stay positive and I think we'll win,'' he said.