As Notre Dame fans look back at Saturday's loss to Stanford, they can take little comfort in a 304-yard day from the Irish quarterback, and shake their heads at a 11-of-16 performance on third down by the visiting offense.
By the numbers
It's easy to forget that Notre Dame
junior quarterback Dayne Crist
just made the fourth start of his career as he continues to pile up impressive numbers. And as forgettable as the team's performance was in Saturday's 37-14 home loss to Stanford
, which dropped the Irish to 1-3 on the season, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound signal caller managed to put up 304 yards through the air.
Of course, many of those yards came with the game out of reach. Crist, who finished with one touchdown and one interception on 25-of-44 passing, has an impressive season stat line in progress: 89-of-150 passing for 1,155 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
Overall, and especially early, Saturday wasn't one of his better days. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble, and while all of the blame certainly doesn't rest on Crist's shoulders, the passing game looked disjointed and out of sync for much of the afternoon. Stanford's coach, though, was impressed by what he saw out of Crist.
"He plays with a lot of poise, really good stature in the pocket, sees the field extremely well, gets the ball out very quickly," Jim Harbaugh
said. "He's an accurate, decisive quarterback. He's a heck of a competitor, too. You saw that today."
The referees (from the Pac 10 … ND fans love that) appeared to clearly blow two early calls that might not have had a huge impact on the result when taking the entire contest into account, but they sure didn't help.
About three and a half minutes into the game, Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov
, timing the snap, seemed to be offsides as he cut through the line and sacked Crist for a 7-yard loss on second and 6 from the 36. An incomplete pass on the next play forced a punt, although the Cardinal muffed it, the Irish got the ball back and made a field goal.
On Stanford's first offensive series, Notre Dame linebacker Carlo Calabrese
and defensive tackle Ian Williams
appeared to stuff a third and 1 run by Stanford's Owen Marecic
well short of the first down. A generous spot gave Stanford the first down, and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly challenged the call via replay (those officials were from the Big East), but the officials refused to overturn the ruling on the field. Stanford drove down for a touchdown and never relinquished the lead.
From the view in the press box, both calls seemed highly dubious.
On the defensive
To say that Notre Dame was a few plays away on Saturday is an overstatement. The Irish got themselves in a 19-6 hole, and when that happens, disaster looms ? and it struck, in an interception touchdown that put the game out of reach.
A closer look at the defensive effort reveals some positives to build on.
A flashing red light in the numbers is Stanford's success rate on third down: 11-of-16. Ouch. Compare that to Notre Dame's 4-of-13, and try to put both results out of mind.
Credit Stanford with sticking by the running game and remaining poised when Notre Dame blitzed on passing downs. The Cardinal rushed 44 times for 174 yards, and quarterback Andrew Luck
completed 19-of-32 passes for 238 yards.
Notre Dame did record two interceptions against the usually mistake-free Luck. Late in the first half, safety Jamoris Slaughter
caught a pass tipped by cornerback Robert Blanton
for an interception near the Notre Dame end zone. And midway through the third quarter, linebacker Kerry Neal
tipped a ball that was picked off by corner Darrin Walls
The Irish gave up a long run of just 11 yards, with linebacker Manti Te'o (21 total tackles) and safety Harrison Smith
(seven solo tackles and four assists) leading the way there.
But it wasn't enough against a team averaging more than 50 points per game through three victories to start the season.
"They executed their plays well," Slaughter said of Stanford. "They've got good enough players to get the job done. They're a good team."