SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Theo Riddick is Notre Dame's smallest running back but Brigham Young learned he's got no shortage of power.
The 5-11, 200-pound Riddick 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 scoring the go-ahead touchdown as the Irish rallied for a 17-14 win Saturday.
"As a team, this was special," Riddick said. "We showed that we can run the ball."
He got no argument from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Riddick "just ran really hard, north and south, physical," Kelly said. "That gives energy for everybody. The o-line sees a guy who's really pounding it in there. He got us that energy we needed."
Notre Dame (7-0), off to its best start in a decade, has a big game ahead against No. 10 Oklahoma next week, although it looked for a while the importance of that game was in jeopardy. The Cougars (4-4) fell to 0-3 on the road as they surrendered a season-high 270 yards rushing.
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.
"We were one or two plays short from being able to come away with a victory," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
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.
BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree said the Cougars didn't tackle well enough.
"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," he said.