When one looks at the stat sheet of Notre Dame's 38-31 victory over Stanford on Saturday, the statistics show the Irish dominated the game.
The Cardinal had minus 11 rushing yards. They were 1-of-11 on third down. Stanford was also 0-for-2 on fourth down and surrendered seven sacks in the game.
Yet the game went down to the wire with the Irish marching 80 yards in six plays to pull ahead for good with 00:55 left to go in the game. How could this be?
Costly mental mistakes hurt the Irish all game. Quinn threw two critical interceptions on the Stanford side of the field ending two probable scoring drives. And the Irish defense surrendered a number of damaging big plays in the passing game—something they haven't done for quite some time—to keep the Cardinal in the game. Throw in a kickoff return for a touchdown surrendered late in the game and you have the makings of an upset.
But the important thing to remember about this Notre Dame team is they responded and stepped up to the challenge—something they haven't been doing in the previous years. Stanford played nearly flawless (zero turnovers, 2 penalties) with their best game of the season likely, but it didn't matter.
Quarterback Brady Quinn struggled at times during the game but put the team on his back once again and marched 80 yards in just 00:51 seconds of play.
Even the Irish defense, while gouged all night with big plays, responded at the end of the game with two critical sacks by Victor Abiamiri to end Stanford's hopes of the upset victory.
As bad as it seemed at times, did anyone have any doubt that ND would win this game? Would you have that same thought on the outcome if this had been last year?
Notre Dame took Stanford's best shot, just as they've taken everyone's best shot this season, and they responded when they had to…finally.
Now the Irish will march on to the BCS. The good news is that this Irish team continues to play at the level of their competition—not usually a good thing, but should be in a BCS game. Do they deserve to be in a BCS game? We're going to find out, but one thing I'm certain of, they won't quit like they have in previous BCS games.