Notre Dame starts the second where it left off the first, with DeShone Kizer pump-faking what would have been a likely touchdown pass, and instead running for first-down yardage into the Cardinal red zone. But three runs later, the last greatly aided by an Irish stumble, and the Irish are inches short to bring up fourth and inches. Biggest defensive snap of the game so far, and Notre Dame blinks first, with a procedural penalty. Defense certainly bent there, and it was far from pretty, but if we keep giving up field goals, we should win this one.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 10, 12:26 remaining, second quarter
Derrick Henry ran the ball 46 times today, so we might as well give him the Heisman right now and save the faux drama. Christian McCaffrey's at 96 all-purpose yards already, passing Reggie Bush for the all-time Pac-12 lead, and it's obviously been a season for him that we'll be talking about for generations to come -- the same way we talk about Darrin Nelson and Elway now -- hardware or not. Here, though, Notre Dame is loading the box with their safeties, and so after McCaffrey is dropped for no gain, it's the passing game that's moving the sticks. Hogan is a little short on an out to Cajuste, though to be fair he's firing from the right hash to the left sideline ten yards downfield, and besides, Cajuste scoops it off the turf to move the chains, upheld after review.
Notre Dame uses its second timeout of the half, perhaps to encourage the review, but regardless, they'll have only one left should they find themselves in a two-minute situation.
Third and four after Love gains two on a wildcat handoff, and then McCaffrey takes for four going, yet again, left. Hogan should have run, and probably had first-down yardage, but instead tries to checkdown to Remound Wright, whom he misses badly, and probably didn't have a first down besides. Alex Robinson comes out for the game's first punt, and it's a beaut that Notre Dame has to fair-catch at their eight. Card now 5-of-6 on third downs and up 28-9 in plays, but ND will be driving with a chance to take the lead. Next drive, I'd love to see us take a deep shot or two if Notre Dame's going to keep selling out to stop the run.
Irish at their nine, but a handoff off left tackle gains 13, with the Irish using a zone read to freeze the first linebacker out of the play. Then a Brennan Scarlett false start. And then a 20-yard reception to Torii Hunter Jr. -- wait, isn't his dad the MLB star? [Yes, sure enough, he is, per FOX two minutes later.]
Notre Dame quickly into Stanford territory, as they're just grounding up this defensive front. After several runs up the middle, the Irish come back to a Will Fuller out -- and Fuller is given a six-yard cushion as he moves the chains with an eight-yard catch. Then Hunter for 13 on an end-around, and it's first and nearly goal for Notre Dame.
However, the Irish run twice for six yards in the Stanford red zone, and it's third and four at the Cardinal seven, nearing five minutes left in the first half. Another huge play for the defense, Stanford brings a very well-disguised blitz at the last second, and Kodi Whitfield forces Kizer into a harmless throwaway. So as Justin Yoon comes out for another field goal attempt, a 90-yard plus drive feels like a victory for the defense. We're essentially playing a "ball control" defense here -- trying to do on defense what we do on offense.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 13, 4:56 remaining, second quarter
Well, we do send Hogan back for a presumptive deep shot, but Hogan doesn't see anything he likes right away, and it's a coverage sack for the Irish a moment later. Don't like the second and 17 run call, and J.R. Smith beats Casey Tucker's block to drop McCaffrey for a loss. McCaffrey goes for 14 on a third-down screen -- again an Irish defender making an incredible play to run through the wash and drop McCaffrey. Folks, this is clearly the best team we've played all year, and we're in for a dogfight tonight.
Notre Dame will take a deep shot, and they'll hit, with Terrence Alexander getting burned crispy by Will Fuller. Man, we really could have used Wayne Lyons this year. Hey, at least we'll have time for a two-minute drive after the 73-yard bomb.
Notre Dame 20, Stanford 14, 2:15 remaining, second quarter
Two-minute offense might be just what the doctor ordered for the offense after the Irish had bottled up the power attack the last few drives. Sure enough, you really have to wonder if this should be our base offense -- McCaffrey runs for 11, then Hogan checks down for 13 as a blitzing defender created a hole, and then Hogan bombs to Devon Cajuste for 38. Next snap, Michael Rector gets a bubble screen and should be dropped for a two-yard loss. Instead, he spins out of a tackle and sprints to paydirt. And seriously, why isn't this our base offense?
Stanford 21, Notre Dame 20, 48 seconds remaining, second quarter
Irish have only 48 seconds to try to stake a halftime lead, though they will get the second-half kick. Importantly, Notre Dame has only one timeout after using two to try to adjust to Stanford's offense. Mike Tyler getting some work in the two-minute defense, and he comes off his block to grab DeShone Kizer and throw him to the ground after just four yards, forcing the Irish into their last timeout.
Now Notre Dame is incomplete to Amir Carlisle, but then Kizer scrambles for a good 48 yards and gets out of bounds at the Card 23. 21 seconds left in the half. Sack here would be beyond huge, and sure enough, Brennan Scarlett strip-sacks and Solomon Thomas recovers. We'll knee out the last 12 seconds -- I wish we would take a shot, but alas -- and Notre Dame will take the second-half kickoff, but they'll be trailing. Notre Dame, by the way, just averaged 11.6 yards per play that half. Sheesh.
Stanford 21, Notre Dame 20, Halftime
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