SOUTH BEND –- Stanford's Chris Marinelli was right about one thing, there was a point when the Cardinal ‘gashed the (expletive) out of (Notre Dame).'
Unfortunately for Marinelli and the Cardinal, that point was mainly the first quarter and Stanford came away with no points as it turned the ball over twice in the opening quarter. Stanford ripped off some long runs late in the game too, but Notre Dame was able to hang on for a 28-21 victory to move to 4-1 on the season.
Jimmy Clausen had another career day, completing 29 of his 40 passes for 347 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Clausen's performance was needed too as the Irish running game gained just 83 yards.
Michael Floyd led the Irish receiving corps with five catches for 115 yards and a score, while Armando Allen and David Grimes combined for 14 receptions for 126 yards. Allen had two touchdowns, including the first of the game on Notre Dame's opening drive.
Toby Gerhart led Stanford with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. Anthony Kimble chipped in with 61 yards on 10 rushing attempts. The Cardinal struggled through the air, though, as Tavita Pritchard was 18 for 28 for 182 yards and two touchdowns, but also had three interceptions and was sacked five times.
The Irish did not hide the fact that Marinelli's derogatory comments about Notre Dame during the week fired them up.
"You saw our players' rare emotion before a game," Weis said. "You never see our guys fired up before a game. I mean, I've never seen it since I've been here."
"We didn't downplay it like a lot of people say they do. We really took that to heart and that's what they're thinking over there so we stepped up and we did what we did," Harrison Smith said. "We're not going to let anybody come in to our house and talk like that to us. "
Stanford rushed for 107 yards on 11 carries in the first quarter and did hit many longer gainers, but both of their drives in the opening quarter ended with interceptions. Meanwhile, the Irish scored touchdowns on three of their first four drives to take a 21-7 lead into the half.
Although they were leading by two touchdowns, the Irish were hardly dominating. The Irish had just 17 rushing yards to Stanford's 132, but were helped by the three Stanford interceptions.
Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives of the second half. A sack of Clausen on Notre Dame's second possession of the second half along with a 15-yard penalty on David Bruton on the punt set the Cardinal up at Notre Dame's 30-yard line for their second drive of the half. But Stanford was stopped on three downs and Aaron Zagory missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
On Notre Dame's third drive of the second half, Clausen led the Irish straight down the field, completing all five of his pass attempts for 78 yards, including a 16-yard scoring pass to Kyle Rudolph to give the Irish a 28-7 lead with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Stanford cut the lead to 28-14 with 10 minutes to play in the game after Pritchard hit tight end Jim Dray with a one-yard scoring pass on the Cardinal's first drive of the fourth. Gerhart started the drive with a 27-yard run before Pritchard hit Ryan Whalen with a 27-yard toss down to the Notre Dame 1-yard line.
Notre Dame punted on its next possession and Doug Baldwin returned it 38 yards to the Irish 36-yard line. Baldwin capped the drive with a 10-yard scoring reception from Pritchard in the corner of the end zone to make the score 28-21 with 6:00 to play.
The Irish managed to take some time off the clock on their next possession, but a holding penalty set them back and Notre Dame had to punt with more than three minutes remaining. Baldwin made the mistake of catching Eric Maust's punt at his own 2-yard line and was wrapped up by David Bruton at the 3.
Stanford gained one first down, but a sack and a delay of game penalty put the Cardinal in a 4th-and-15 situation and they turned the ball over on downs with 2:18 remaining.
Notre Dame failed to gain a first down and turned the ball over on downs with 8 seconds to play, giving Stanford one last chance. Pritchard completed a pass to Kimble, who lateraled to Baldwin, but Pat Kuntz ended up with the ball to end the game.
It was fitting for the game to end with the ball in Kuntz's hands as he was one of the players who took Marinelli's comments most to heart. Emotions ran high all game and there was a brief scuffle on the field following the final play.
"I didn't rip anybody's head off, I think that would have been a facemask penalty of some sort," Kuntz said. "I feel like I had a good game today, I feel like I sent my message."
Although Marinelli was correct about Stanford breaking off a couple of big runs, the Irish defense that he was talking about had a season-high five sacks against his offensive line. Besides, the stadium is as historic as any in the game, there have been very few – if any – complaints about the new turf since it was laid down over the offseason and South Bend is rather pleasant this time of year.
Notre Dame rushed for just 17 yards on 10 carries in the first half, but Clausen finished the half 16 of 21 for 221 yards and the two scores. Stanford had 132 rushing yards on 23 attempts, but Pritchard had just 76 passing yards and the three interceptions.
Stanford moved the ball in the first quarter, rushing for 107 yards, but came away with zero points as the Irish forced a pair of turnovers in their own territory.
The Cardinal pushed the ball across midfield on their first series, gaining 25 yards through the air and 20 on an Anthony Kimble run off the right side, but the drive ended when David Bruton picked off a Pritchard pass on third down.
The Irish took over on their own 20-yard line and moved the ball with Clausen hitting Allen and Rudolph with passes of 20 and 24 yards respectively. Clausen failed to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-short at the 22, but Robert Hughes picked it up, just barely, on fourth down. Allen scored on a 21-scoring pass one play later to give the Irish a 7-0 lead with 7:56 to go in the first quarter.
The Cardinal used long runs by Gerhart, Kimble and Delano Howell to move the ball into Notre Dame territory on their next possession, but Kuntz read a Pritchard screen pass perfectly and intercepted it to give the Irish the ball on their own 33.
Notre Dame picked up a pair of first downs on passes of 10 and 19 yards to Tate and Floyd respectively, but the Irish had to punt. Maust pinned Stanford deep when his boot was downed at Stanford's own 5-yard line.
But Stanford went on a 14-play, 95-yard drive that lasted 7:02 and ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Gerhart 4:09 seconds into the second quarter. 12 of the 14 plays were runs with Gerhart leading the way with five carries for 41 yards.
Clausen moved the Irish down the field on their next drive, going 5 of 6 for 65 yards. Floyd drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone and Allen ran it in from three yards out two plays later to give Notre Dame a 14-7 lead with 6:12 left in the half.
Notre Dame forced the game's first three-and-out on Stanford's next possession, which ended with Darius Fleming getting the Irish's second sack of the season. Notre Dame was granted solid field position, taking over at Stanford's 48 when the Cardinal were called for interference on the punt.
The Irish struck three plays later when Clausen hit Floyd with a 48-yard bomb to give the Irish a 21-7 with lead with 3:40 left in the half.
Notre Dame had great field position after Kyle McCarthy picked off Pritchard deep in Stanford territory. But the Irish were pushed back by a personal foul on Kuntz and Brandon Walker eventually missed a 41-yard field goal with just under a minute before halftime. Clausen threw a beautiful pass to Grimes in the end zone on second down, but Grimes' foot came down out of bounds.
Stanford did not cross midfield on the final drive of the half and the Irish took a 21-7 lead into the locker room.