Stanford runs away from Notre Dame 37-14
Staring a possible 1-3 start in the face, Notre Dame met 16th-ranked and 3-0 Stanford head-on, stifling the Cardinal's vaunted 50-point-per-game offense for much of the game. But the fast-paced spread offense attack of the Irish stalled out as well. In any event, it was a rough day all the way around for Notre Dame Saturday, as Stanford's 37-14 victory sent the Irish to their third straight loss, and seven of eight overall, not to mention 11 in a row to ranked teams. Despite the circumstances, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly walked into the postgame interview room with a clear purpose: He wanted to talk not only about the missed opportunities in a game that got away from Notre Dame, but also about how he, his coaches, and the players are working to improve the team in Kelly's first year. "We're going to build this program to where it needs to be. They know what they're doing is making a difference," Kelly said of the players' hard work. "They're getting better." As for the present, Kelly pointed to two key plays with Notre Dame down 19-6: A failed fourth down run by Jonas Gray early in the fourth quarter, and a third-and-7 conversion on a pass by Stanford's Andrew Luck to Stepfan Taylor for 23 yards on the next series. Owen Marecic subsequently scored a 1-yard touchdown run to put Stanford ahead 27-6. Marecic, who plays linebacker as well as fullback, intercepted a Dayne Crist pass on the very next play for scrimmage and returned it for a 20-yard touchdown. Game truly over. The Irish got a late touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Crist to Theo Riddick. Kelly said that the three-man rush left tight passing windows that the Irish were unable to exploit. "It really came down to their drop eight," he said. Instead of a first-half offensive explosion, a chess game played out, with Stanford taking a 16-6 edge into intermission. On the first Stanford drive of the game, the visiting Cardinal scored the lone touchdown of the first two quarters on a 16-yard pass from Luck to Coby Fleener. Notre Dame brought a blitz and Luck showed nice recognition, with 6-foot-6 tight end Fleener making the catch over Irish linebacker Brian Smith. Notre Dame had stalled on its opening drive, but a muffed fair catch by Stanford's Doug Baldwin gave the offense new life. Again, though, the Irish couldn't convert on third down, and settled for a 22-yard David Ruffer field goal. After the Stanford touchdown, Notre Dame coughed the ball up, with quarterback Crist getting sacked and losing the football, but the Cardinal managed only a field goal, from 24 yards by kicker Nate Whitaker, a Notre Dame transfer. Ruffer cut the Stanford lead to 10-6 with a 40-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but Stanford controlled the action until the end of the half, adding two more Whitaker field goals, from 41 and 36 yards. Mixing in runs, play action, and deep passes from its pro-style offense, Stanford held the ball for more than eight minutes on the drive that led to the second field goal, and moved quickly to add the third field goal shortly before the end of the half, putting the Cardinal ahead 16-6. Notre Dame's defensive highlight in the first half was an interception by safety Jamoris Slaughter, on a ball tipped by corner Robert Blanton, near the end zone. But a decent return by Slaughter was cut in half by a clipping penalty, and the Irish went three-and-out. Whitaker made five field goals for Stanford. Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned him and special teams coach Brian Polian, a former Notre Dame assistant, in the first minute of his postgame remarks. He also praised his defense for pressuring Crist and clamping down on standout Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph, who finished with one catch for a single yard. "We talk about packing the defense for the road games," Harbaugh said. Notre Dame's defense held up fairly well until the end, allowing 404 Stanford yards and forcing three turnovers. Sophomore linebacker Manti Teo had eight solo tackles and 13 assists. Crist threw for 304 yards and Michael Floyd caught eight passes for 110 yards. But Notre Dame managed just 44 net rushing yards.
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