Theo Riddick has been Notre Dame’s power player

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As any running back would do after a 146-yard performance, Theo Riddick immediately praised his offensive line following Notre Dame’s 22-13 victory over USC on Saturday night.

“Without them, there’s no me,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have seen the holes that were there to explore and take advantage of.”

But the reason it was Riddick clutching the game ball in the Coliseum tunnel and not the linemen was Riddick managed to make big gains even when there were no holes to explore. His 14-yard run midway through the fourth quarter — on which he was met by two USC defenders well behind the line of scrimmage before spinning and powering his way through for a 14-yard gain — set up Kyle Brindza’s fifth and final field goal of the night, making it a two-score game at 22-13. Riddick had four runs of at least 10 yards, and two receptions for at least 10 yards, plus a 9-yard touchdown run in the first half.

Riddick wasn’t even expected to be the starter this season, not with incumbent 1,000-yard rusher Cierre Wood coming back. But Wood was suspended for the first two games, Riddick ran for 107 yards in the opener against Navy in Dublin, and he never relinquished the job. He has 880 yards and five touchdowns on 180 carries while splitting carries with Wood, who has 740 yards on 110 carries. What makes Riddick even more valuable is his receiving ability — he played as a wideout the last two seasons because of the Irish’s depth in the backfield. He has 35 catches for 364 yards and a touchdown.

“If you want to know about the Fighting Irish, you just need to look at Theo Riddick,” ND coach Brian Kelly said. “Here’s a guy who was a wide receiver for me the last two years. We asked him to move back to running back, and in Game 12 he manages 146 yards, (and) broke countless tackles and got us the tough yards we needed today. You just look at his jersey after the game — there’s no wonder this team has the toughness it does.”

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