Notre Dame holds Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-1 at the goal line, winning its sixth straight game without a loss in its most promising season since 2002. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel)
Did we just witness another Notre Dame classic?
Notre Dame knew that Stanford was not going to be an easy win. But they never expected to be in an overtime situation trying to hold Stanford in a goal line stand.
A determined Notre Dame defense, whose vocabulary did not include the phrase “give up,” stopped running back Stepfan Taylor just inches from the goal line on fourth down in overtime. After a waterlogged 20-13 victory over the No. 17 Cardinal, the Fighting Irish move up to the number five spot in the AP poll and BCS standings this morning.
Taylor did everything within his power to get the ball across the goal line, and his knee did not appear to hit the ground before reaching the ball across the goal line. But the officials ruled that the ball crossed the line after the whistle was blown, and the play was stopped. Taylor finished the day with 102 yards on 28 carries. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, he came up one yard short of a victory.
The Notre Dame sideline spilled out onto the field but the celebration was halted in order to allow the officials to review the play. The call stood as is and the field was flooded by Irish fans from the stands. Notre Dame’s national title hopes stay alive for another week. The Irish are 6-0 for the first time since 2002. “Physically, we controlled the line of scrimmage,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of the game’s last play. “Classic. Classic goal line stand.”
Once again, Tommy Rees came in for the final drive of the game, this time relieving sophomore quarterback Everett Golson after Golson took a helmet to the head during Notre Dame’s game-tying field goal drive late in the fourth quarter.
In the overtime drive, Rees dropped a perfect 16-yard pass right into Theo Riddick’s hands to convert a third-and-8 to the seven yard line. On the very next play, he threw a pass behind wide receiver T.J. Jones who reached back for a skillful two-handed grab and a 20-13 lead.
Then the Fighting Irish defense, which has now not given up a single touchdown in last four games, made it’s staND. Half the field was covered with Notre Dame fans, as rain poured down from above during the post-game celebration. No one even noticed. Toss another classic victory into Notre Dame lore.
Cardinal kicker Jordan Williamson’s 27-yard field goal put them ahead by a score of 13-10. On the following Fighting Irish drive, Everett Golson took a hit to the helmet from nickelback Usua Amanam which was flagged for 15 yards.
Golson came out of the game suffering from blurred vision, according to Coach Brian Kelly in his post game interview, and Tommy Rees came in. Rees immediately completed an 11-yard pass to Tyler Eifert, and then on third down Eifert drew a pass interference call on cornerback Terrence Brown that gave the Irish a first down at the 13 yard line.
After three failed attempts to score a touchdown, Irish kicker Kyle Brindza successfully sails a 22-yard field goal through the uprights with 20 seconds left to tie the game at 13.
If you were looking for a dog fight on a rainy day, that is exactly what you got in South Bend on Saturday. The Notre Dame defense was not about to staND down in their house. Notre Dame defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt and inside linebacker Manti Te’o were all over the Stanford offense. On the other side, Stanford inside linebacker Shayne Skov and defensive end Ben Gardner made it very difficult for Golson to execute his offensive scheme.
Golson had a day full of ups and downs, completing 12 of 24 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also had two critical fumbles, one of which gave Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas an easy touchdown as he recovered the ball in the end zone. The other fumble gave the Cardinal the ball back after Golson had just completed a long run deep into Stanford territory. Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes had a similar day. Nunes completed 12 for 25 for 125 yards with two interceptions of his own.
The Irish finally rallied and found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. On a third-and-18 play from the 24 yrad line, Golson dropped a pass into the front corner of the end zone that the 6-foot-6 Eifert grabbed for a touchdown and a 10-10 tie.
Nunes, and his go-to running back Stefan Taylor, responded with their best offensive drive of the game. On a 16-play, 65-yard drive that ate up over eight minutes of the clock, the Cardinal offense got as far as the Notre Dame 3, and then could not punch it into the end zone. Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson’s then made a 27-yard field goal to give Stanford the 13-10 lead with 6:12 left on the clock.
Not only does it seem that we have witnessed another Notre Dame classic, it also seems that we are witnessing another third season spark under a head coach at Notre Dame. The third season has traditionally been a memorable one at Notre Dame. Head Coaches Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all won national titles in Year 3 of coaching at Notre Dame. Coach Brian Kelly’s third season in South Bend was already starting to feel as if it could be special, too. This win over Stanford has brought the Irish one step closer to another shining season.
The Irish take on BYU in South Bend next Saturday, Oct. 21. BYU has an offense that is ranked 71st, and a defense that’s ranked 5th in the nation. With such a top notch defense, BYU is not a team to look past. Hopefully Coach Kelly can keep his team focused on the job at hand, and not looking too far ahead to games down the line, particularly the Oklahoma game the following week in Norman, Okla.