* Delano Howell has nine tackles, making him on pace for 18. Holy smokes.
* Stanford has ran 15 times for 61 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, and has passed 23 times for 176 yards, 7.7 yards per pass. Not sure that I don't stick with the pass because Luck looks unbeatable, but if I do run it more in the second half, I'm giving it more to Taylor and Gaffney and less to Amanam, who had just three yards on his three touches, although Gaffney looked like he got dinged. Also, the 23/15 pass rush balance is probably the inverse of what we expected preseason.
* Stanford's 7-of-9 on third downs. Notre Dame is just 2-of-7. Stanford has three sacks to Notre Dame's none. Stanford is winning this game in the trenches.
* Nate Whitaker has come up absolutely huge on each of his three field goal attempts. This game feels much different if it's a 13-6, not 16-6 halftime lead.
* Biggest benefit of Stanford's offense? Its ability to run clock. Notre Dame has had just six possessions on the half. If Stanford can choke off the second half the same way, another touchdown or two should be enough.
* Then again, Stanford has nine passing first downs to three rushing first downs. What do I know?
* 17-7 Arkansas and 20-3 UCLA? If they hold, Oregon's going to be No. 2 in the country come next week. Forget Texas/Oklahoma and Florida/Alabama, College GameDay here we come! (If, you know, records and not ratings drove these decisions.)
Stanford drive, 16-6, Stanford 36
The coaches got my memo, as it's Taylor running it out of the halftime gate after a nice kickoff return, then it's a five-yard pass to Ertz as Stanford no-huddles into a third and one. Taylor converts – a more explosive back might have busted this or many similar runs open for big yardage – but it's another Stanford first down. Eight of 10 now on third-down conversions. Dumpoff to Owusu is a 20-yard first down. Notre Dame really has no idea how to slow this attack down. And from my keyboard to God's ears, as it's another 14 yards to Reuland, first down at the Irish 17. Stanford's scored on all four of its red zone trips, but just one touchdown, can they change that here? At 23-6, things would be looking really good. Notre Dame stuffs the first down run, again, Owusu gets blown up on a second-down corner route and can't hang on, and Luck throws it away on third down, albeit nearly to Notre Dame on an ill-advised attempt across his body. Whitaker, the game's darkhorse MVP candidate is good again on his career-high fourth field goal of the game and it's 19-6 Cardinal with 10:44 left in the third. Overheard in the press box: maybe Stanford's getting impatient in the red zone and going for the end zone too frequently, instead of trying to just keep grinding.
Notre Dame drive, 19-6, ND 24, 11:00 left in the 3rd
This is the most important drive of the game for the Stanford defense. Notre Dame really needs a score; a hold here would send a huge message. Allen runs for nine when he was dead-to-rights, but he's a great player and will do that from time to time. Notre Dame has had no big plays on the day – its largest gain thus far for 14 yards. Then it's Allen for another 10, but it's coming back on a hold on Kyle Rudolph. Tai-ler Jones on a 21-yard slant – so much for that small-gain streak – as Michael Thomas is injured. Notre Dame's marched up the field in the first half too, but the Stanford D found a way to tighten. Can they do so here? Chase Thomas tips first down, Sione Fua beats a double-team to blow up second, and on third and 13, Thomas Keiser, quiet up until this point, has Stanford's fourth sack of the day. Folks, this is a top-10 team!
Stanford drive, 7:32 left 3rd Q, 19-6, Stan 34
From their 34 after an Irish shanked punt, Luck runs for 11. Taylor gets stuffed on another first down run – our first-down rushing must be yielding two yards per carry – and then Luck forces another ball toward the left sideline and gets it intercepted. He has a bit of the Brett Farve gunslinger gene in his for better and for worse, and here it has cost him his first two interceptions of the season. Overheard in the press box: "We're coming back!"
Notre Dame drive, 6:20 3rd Q, ND 44, 19-6
Crist never gets time to throw and the Irish goes three-and-out. Marecic has his hands on a would-be pick on third down. In real time, this drive feels like I represented Notre Dame's last good shot to get back into the game, and the defense simply would not allow it. What a change from a few years ago.
Stanford drive, 5:54 3rd Q, 19-6, Stan 11
The Card start at their 10 in the late third quarter, and the run starts to work. A 15-yard facemask doesn't hurt matters, but Taylor is finding holes and that whole cliché about wearing a team down over the course of four quarters is looking sagacious. However, Stanford forces itself into a third and 13 at the Notre Dame 40, and the staff makes its first bad call of the day in my opinion, running student body left when if you pick up half of it, you're in four-down territory and could go for the fourth and six. Harold Bernard makes me feel better about the call though, after he downs the punt at the Irish 2. Te'o has 16 tackles and we have 16 minutes left to play. Holy smokes.
Notre Dame drive, 1:15 3rd Q, ND 2, 19-6
Is anyone feeling a safety? Would be the exclamation point for a defensive performance that deserves one. Allen goes nowhere on first and is injured. A completion to Floyd, a five-yard sideline interference penalty (what? Is that unsportsmanlike conduct on the coaches?) and an Allen draw or two and now it's the fourth quarter and Notre Dame is moving. But Dayne Crist gets flushed out of the pocket on third down and throws it away, and on fourth and one at the Irish 49 with 13:39 to go, Notre Dame's taking a timeout to talk it over. Through three quarters, Stanford has 332 yards to Notre Dame's 171 – this defensive performance is simply incredible. The Card have 27 minutes of possession to Notre Dame's 18, have run 59 plays to Notre Dame's 48, and, of course, have converted 8-of-12 third downs to Notre Dame's 2-of-9. And on fourth and one, it's Chase Thomas hitting and dropping Jonas Gray one yard in the backfield. There are a few more to go, but a nail or two are in the coffin already.
Stanford drive, 19-6, 14 minutes left, midfield
Stanford tries to go for the throat on a play-action pass off the possession change, but no one's open deep and Luck does well to throw it away and avoid the sack. Looks like "Moose" Jonathan Martin got away with a pretty blatant hold too. Running forward on third and eight as the pocket is collapsing, Luck finds his safety outlet in Taylor for another first down and 22-yard gain. Incredible. Stanford has worn out Notre Dame, it's official. The Card grind their way to a first and 10 from the 10.5, and it's Taylor for nine off right tackle on the play. He goes nowhere on second down, and gets just a yard on third down for a first and goal from the one-inch line. Run, clock, run. Marecic goes nowhere – I wonder if Harbaugh's almost doing this on purpose, it's been three runs that have gone virtually nowhere – and then it's Marecic diving over the top for the score. Two-point conversion good to Ertz in the right flat, 27-6 with 7:58 to go. All right now is blaring in my head! 11 plays, including 3-of-3 third down conversions, 5:37 on the drive.
Notre Dame drive, 27-6, 8 minutes left, ND 16
Michael Thomas is limping around on the Stanford sideline. His status for next week is obviously huge. Dayne Crist takes the first snap and makes the worst throw of the day, hitting Owen Marecic between his 4 and his 8. Marecic returns it for a touchdown, giving him two in the past 15 or so seconds. 34-6 Stanford, as Stanford's D has scored more than it's allowed. Marecic has got to be the first Division I-A player to score on offense and defense in the same game since, I don't know, Charles Woodson? He's got to be the first player to score on offense and defense on consecutive snaps from scrimmage in a long, long time, possibly ever. [Edit: Eric Weddle, of Utah then and the San Diego Chargers now, scored on consecutive plays as a DB and receiver in 2006. Who knew? Hat tip to Stanford media relations and Stats Inc for hurrying to figure that out.]
We're going to stop charting because the game is no longer in doubt and we've got a recap to write! Congrats to Stanford on one of its biggest wins in years. Game balls to Nate Whitaker and the entire Stanford defense. How big does next week look right now? This went about as well as a Stanford fan could have hoped for!
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