SOUTH BEND — Midway through Saturday's third quarter, with Notre Dame trailing and its offense seemingly running on a treadmill, the Irish faced a third-and-1 from their 37-yard line.
Senior running back Theo Riddick took a handoff, ran into the middle of the BYU defensive line and, if you looked away too soon, probably thought Riddick had been stopped, bringing about a fourth-and-1.
Fortunately for No, 5-ranked, 7-0 Notre Dame, Riddick didn't stop.
Instead, he kept chugging, snuck through a tangle of bodies, put his left hand on the ground to keep his balance and then just kept on running.
"I just looked up and it was daylight," Riddick said. "Things happen."
What happened after Riddick got loose was a 55-yard jaunt to the Cougar 6, which set up a critical field goal in ND's eventual 17-14 victory over BYU (4-4) at Notre Dame Stadium.
"Toughness," Irish coach Brian Kelly said of Riddick's run. "I mean, he has run really hard and physical for us."
"When you've got a guy out there who's grinding out every inch, doing everything he can for his team," ND center Braxston Cave said, "that gets everybody going."
Riddick's long run got the Irish going in the right direction on the scoreboard. The drive bogged down after three straight running plays, but Kyle Brindza salvaged it with a 24-yard field goal to trim ND's deficit to 14-10.
Notre Dame's next drive was kick-started with a 31-yard Tommy Rees-to-TJ Jones hookup, but, like most of the second half, during which ND threw only three passes, it was largely run-centric. The eight-play drive, which was capped by a George Atkinson's 2-yard touchdown run, included six running plays, the long running play a19-yard burst by Riddick.
Riddick ran for a career-high 143 yards on 15 carries, a sparkling 9.5 yards per carry. Classmate Cierre Wood added 114 yards rushing.
The Irish held a 270-66 advantage in rushing yardage against BYU, a team that entered the game third in the nation in run defense with an average of 67.8 yards allowed per game.
The ND running attack also helped the Irish run out most of the clock late in the game. With ND facing a third-and-5 from their 37 and less than five minutes remaining, Riddick burst for six yards to pick up a crucial first down.
"What can I say? Coach called my number" Riddick said. "I think we're all in the system where whatever number's called, we have a job to do.
Fortunately, coach Kelly called my number and we got a first down."
What Riddick also got Saturday was some good-natured ribbing for the back end of his long run. Riddick, who was caught from behind as he approached the goal line, trotted to the sideline after being tackled and appeared to be holding his side.
"I'm not really one to talk," tight end Tyler Eifert offered, "but he likes to talk a lot so I maybe gave him a little hard time."
"Yeah, yeah. I was a little winded," Riddick conceded. "Everyone cracked jokes, but at the end of the day we got a victory."
Staff writer Bob Wieneke: email@example.com
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