Thought: Had Wayne Lyons not transfered, what might this team's record be? I suspect we would have gotten past Oregon and would be a presumptive playoff team at the moment. Could have used him this year given the mass casualties in the secondary.
Stanford 0, Notre Dame 0, opening kickoff
Stanford takes the opening kickoff, and McCaffrey catches and carries in a wildcat, both times going off left tackle, both times for good yardage. Joel Klatt here on FOX just called David Shaw one of the best playcallers in all of college football -- moments before Stanford has to burn a timeout one minute into the game. Out of the timeout, McCaffrey runs for five on first down, and then Devon Cajuste has the ball slapped away on his first target of the game. Third and five goes for 4.5 yards, but is spotted for five to Austin Hooper. Hooper appears to limp off, however, so we'll have to keep an eye on him.
Cardinal continue to run the ball with McCaffrey, this time for seven, and we have been able to crease the Notre Dame defensive line so far. Big victory for our offensive line and a good omen early, though as I type that, McCaffrey's stopped for no gain to bring up a third and three and the Irish 39. Hope we are thinking four downs here.
Instead, Hogan threatens to run to his right on third down, and as the linebacker steps up to shut Hogan down, Hogan finds the now-open Trent Irwin for 16 yards.
Then we fake a pitch to McCaffrey, and as a linebacker bites, Dalton Schultz is screaming open into his vacated zone. Hogan hits with purpose -- he is absolutely on the money so far this drive -- and Schultz catches and rumbles all the way into the end zone. Gus Johnson: "The Cardinal punch the Irish in the mouth on their opening series."
On review, however, Schultz is down at the one foot line, so we get to tire out that Irish defense for another two plays. The Irish blow up the Remound Wright dive, with two guys hitting him in the backfield before he could leap and another defender coming over the top of the pile had Wright leapt. So next play we release Wright into the flat and he's wide-open for a Hogan lob.
Stanford 7, Notre Dame 0, 9:29 remaining, first quarter
Only four teams in the past 20 years have averaged over 35 minutes of possession, and your Cardinal are on pace to be the fifth. Alas, that comment was strangely prescient as Craig Jones and Peter Kalambayi give up the right sideline on the kickoff return, and C.J. Sanders makes one cut to that sideline and is gone, returning a shorter kickoff 93 yards to paydirt. Nothing's ever as simple as it looks against Notre Dame, and looks like we're in for another dogfight tonight.
Stanford 7, Notre Dame 7, 9:18 remaining, first quarter
McCaffrey can only return to the 21, so then it's Bryce Love running for a fresh set of downs as, yet again, the left side of the line opened up a beautiful hole. Austin Hooper back out and seemingly healthy, but can't pull in a high ball, Hogan's first incompletion of the day. Then, Josh Garnett blocks Sheldon Day, but Notre Dame's All-American grabs McCaffrey with one arm and throws him to the ground. Haven't seen an opposing lineman make that play all season.
So the officials are going to be 0-for-2 on reviews as Michael Rector caught a Kevin Hogan NFL-level dart streaking 31 yards down the left sideline, just before stepping out of bounds at the Irish 36.
Next snap, Hogan scrambles for seven, but replay shows that the fake pitch to McCaffrey froze the defense, and a streaking Devon Cajuste had a step down the right seam. After Hogan kills into a run, and the Irish respond by audibling into a run blitz that drops McCaffrey for a loss of two, the Irish call timeout before third and five at their 31. Yet again, I hope we're thinking four downs here. Total yards from scrimmage are 122-0 at the moment, with 84 of those yards through the air.
Money down and McCaffrey takes a backside pitch to the left, after Stanford motions Love left to right, to the strong side of the formation. Beautiful call but McCaffrey should be caught after three yards -- but of course he fights through the contact for another five yards to move the chains. Card perfect 4-of-4 on third down so far today, and have a third and one two McCaffrey runs later. That's as good as a third-down conversion, as a Hogan hard-count gets the Irish to jump, bringing up first and goal at the seven.
McCaffrey handoff goes nowhere, but with a touchdown here, against what is an elite defense, I'm prepared to call this the best quarter of Stanford offense I've seen. Just some beautiful calls to go against our tendencies, and we've tried to highlight most of those. But first -- another third down, this one third and goal at the six after two McCaffrey runs go nowhere.
Okay, it's official, this is the best offensive quarter of Stanford football I've seen. It's the jump ball to Devon Cajuste that we ran in the red zone with Greg Taboada against Oregon. And, like Taboada, Cajuste finds success here, outmuscling his defender, highpointing the ball, and bringing it down for Stanford's second touchdown of the day.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 7, 1:54 remaining, first quarter
Irish at the 20, time for their first possession of the day with the first quarter winding down. Plays are 23-0 Card, and hopefully a quick stand by the defense can keep that stat lopsided. Instead, Irish go right to Will Fuller for 20 yards down the right sideline, with Stanford's DBs looking to be playing loose coverage, like we did against California. Not sure that will work as well today, as the Irish run off right tackle to move the chains and advance into Stanford territory. An underneath pass to Fuller and a run up the middle each gain about six, and the first quarter ends with another eight-yard ground gain and the ball at the Cardinal 22. Here's hoping the defense can hold in the red zone, like it did last week.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 7, End first quarter
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