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2005 was the last time the House that Rockne Built reached a decibel level reminiscent of Saturday's vs. Stanford, with Notre Dame's first defensive play of overtime the likely apex.
Trailing 20-13 and facing 1st and 10 at the Irish 25-yard line, Stanford called upon a play routinely diagnosed and destroyed by defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's unit over the last two-plus seasons: a field-side screen.
As quarterback Josh Nunes turned to throw to workhorse Stepfan Taylor in the flat, senior will linebacker Dan Fox exploded forward and eventually through Taylor, dropping the Cardinal offensive MVP for a five-yard loss…
Nunes took back most of what was lost on first down and then some, escaping the grasp of nose guard Louis Nix and breaking outside Notre Dame's three-man rush, a running lane provided when Cat linebacker Prince Shembo ventured too far inside in coverage and Nunes found the far sideline for a 13-yard gain….
Set up with 3rd and 2 from the Irish 17, Stanford called its third timeout prior to a third-down snap of the contest. Just like the two previous, the Cardinal came out of the break with the perfect play call, this time with Taylor ripping through the middle of the Irish defense for 13 yards and a first down at the Irish 4-yard line. Safety Matthias Farley saved the touchdown as Manti Te'o was buried by a block at the line of scrimmage, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Louis Nix were both controlled by double teams, Carlo Calabrese was easily blocked from the action, and the indomitable Taylor ran through a tackle from Zeke Motta to set up Stanford in ideal scoring position…
What followed will go down as one of the greatest goal line stands in program history:
First and Goal from the 4: Taylor barrels into the line for a yard, with both Shembo and Lewis-Moore shedding blocks to make the stop. Nix had penetrated early but took a shot to his shoulder from lead fullback Ryan Hewitt, a blow that felled the 330-pounder, forcing him to miss the ensuing snap….Key players: Shembo and Lewis-Moore
Second and Goal from the 3: With nix out, backup Kona Schwenke is buried at the point, Te'o is pushed back, and both Lewis-Moore and Stephon Tuitt are double-teamed as Taylor gains three yards down to the Irish 1-yard line…
Key player: Motta made the stop in the scrum...
Third and Goal from the 1: Nix returns but is caught too high on the play, pushed back into the end zone. Conversely, Tuitt, Lewis-Moore, and Shembo submarine low, winning the battle for scrimmage as Carlo Calabrese makes the play, splitting a double-team, maintaining his balance, and grabbing Taylor as he dove into the line. Calabrese received help from Danny Spond (RDE) and Motta on the play as Te'o took care of Taylor's second efforts with a few well-time blows to the head to end the threat…Key Players: Calabrese, Spond, T'eo and Motta
Fourth and Goal from the 1: Nix is caught too high gain (as is Tuitt), but Shembo makes the play, bursting through the line to take away a rushing lane in congress with Calabrese (the pair began both third and fourth down in a three-point stance as extra defensive linemen…Cornerback Bennett Jackson showed no hesitation sprinting around the short corner to grab Taylor as he attempted to dive forward, while front side corner Keivarae Russell played his outside responsibility, but then watched the play materialize rather than diving on the prone Taylor, who kept churning atop a pile of bodies…Te'o likewise appeared to celebrate too early, though the senior told me post-game he responded to the referees whistle. (Te'o undoubtedly should have cleaned up Taylor despite the appearance of stopped progress…
Key Players: Shembo, Calabrese and Jackson
Taylor was marked short by the line judge, though replay was famously needed. Live it appeared without question that Taylor's progress had been stopped (and I heard a whistle -- then again, there's a whistle on every play). On replay it appeared he never stopped moving, though at least four Irish players: Te'o, Russell, Motta, and Farley, all exploded in simultaneous celebration.
Many have speculated that Taylor's elbow was down before his final effort put the ball over the goal line -- I don't think it was, but my opinion after 20-25 viewing is that Taylor's shoulder pad touched…and I have no idea if the ball was across first.
The only thing conclusive about the play is that it couldn't be overturned, nor would it likely have been marked down short of the goal by the replay official had Taylor been awarded a touchdown from the outset.
Notre Dame held Stanford to less than a foot on consecutive snaps, and the end result was a thrilling, season-altering 20-13 overtime victory.