Our second frame begins with Stanford in first and goal on the Irish two. Gaffney runs for 1.5 of those yards on first down, and then Hogan keeps and gets 17 of the remaining 18 inches on second down. (All figures highly scientific.) On third, it‘s not a fade to Rollins Stallworth, or the wildcat, or a play-action shot to our third-string tight end, but again, Gaffney behind his lead fullback between the tackles. Sure enough, Gaffney gets the remaining inch and then some, and Stanford’s nearing the 15-point spread through just a quarter and change.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 3
This may not add much to an analytic understanding of today’s game, but I really do not like Notre Dame football. I am sure they are fine people and all of that, but growing up in Michigan, and then going to Stanford, it was a double-dose of Notre Dame hatred. You can have Cal, and the Michigan folks can have Ohio State, but for me, Notre Dame will always be public enemy No. 1, with USC in close tow behind. All that to say this 14-3 score early brings a smile to my face.
I imagine this rivalry is also extra spicy for many on the staff, who recruit hard against Notre Dame and lost out on guys like Amir Carlisle (via USC), T.J. Jones and Troy Nichols. With all due respect to California and USC, Notre Dame is certainly recruiting enemy No. 1. (I would wager, fairly confidently, that we have lost more recruits to Notre Dame than any other school in the Harbaugh/Shaw era.)
The Irish, to their credit, are moving the ball a little, as they have all afternoon. But with the Irish again near midfield, where they’ve bogged down before, Amir Carlisle has to sidestep a blitzing Shayne Skov and can manage only two on second down. On the money down, Alex Carter drops a potential pick-six (and would-be takeaway in the 36th straight game) on a Tommy Rees pass that hits him square between the two and the five on his jersey. It’s painful, but the Cardinal look to be in control today, and more broadly, that’s the first drop of a would-be interception I remember all year from our back seven. Lots of other secondaries drop balls like this more frequently, but Carter’s miss here was the outlier for the Cardinal. That’s obviously been a huge key to the Cardinal’s five-year run.
Notre Dame is short a lot of players today – two safeties and defensive tackle Louis Nix III. Nix has first-round talent, and his absence leaves a major vacuum up front, one that Stanford is happy to exploit. Two runs set up third and medium, and then Hogan finds a dragging Davis Dudchock on a picture-perfect throw for a 12-yard gain. Gaffney runs for nine on the ensuing first down, and Stanford has a chance to put this one away if the can complete this drive.
The Cardinal smartly take a shot deep on second and one, but Kevin Hogan badly throws Cajuste and instead hits Notre Dame’s Austin Collinsworth. Cris’ son has his second interception in as many weeks, and the Irish will scrimmage from their 48 with 9:25 to go in the quarter.
Big swing in momentum, with Carter dropping a would-be interception, and then Hogan offering one up. Instead of Stanford driving to go up 18, Notre Dame now has a chance to cut the lead to four. For Hogan, meanwhile, the specter of ugly picks has resurfaced after its initial sighting in Los Angeles.
Blake Lueders gets away with a late hit on a nice out route to James Onwualu. Wayne Lyons was again picked on in coverage, though I thought he played that pretty well. After the Irish recover their own fumble, Tommy Rees comes back to “the throw it up against Wayne Lyons and hope for the best” play. The ball falls harmlessly to the turf, and on the ensuing fourth and 15, Kodi Whitfield fair-catches a 37-yard punt on the Cardinal seven. 7:18 remaining, second quarter.
Gaffney for four where other backs would have had two. Wilkerson for four. Shotgun, single back on third down and Hogan is lucky not to throw another pick, coming back late to an out route on the right sideline that Notre Dame jumped. Stanford punts, and the Irish are at the Cardinal 24 shortly thereafter.
We’re under four minutes to go in the second quarter, so with all three timeouts, Stanford will have the chance to get the last drive in this half, and then receive the second-half kickoff. But first, Notre Dame runs for 11 on second and long. Josh Mauro and Ben Gardner are both out, and Blake Lueders is being asked to take on a lot of additional responsibility.
Good to see Brian Kelly red in the face and yelling, nevertheless, on the Fox broadcast. Maybe he was just prescient, as after Tommy Rees rifles one past three Stanford defenders and to no one in particular on third and long, the Irish are lucky to be able to line up for a field goal. Kyle Brinza is good on a 27-yarder, and touchdowns versus field goals is the difference today. Unlike two weeks ago, however, it is the Cardinal with the touchdowns today.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 6, 2:07 remaining, second quarter
Ty Montgomery lands on his head and goes into a somersault after being tackled on the kickoff return, but he remains in the game after getting up slowly. Stanford in a two-minute drill – which I wish we would run more, as we’re really good at it – and sure enough, move the chains after Pratt catches for five and a Gaffney check down goes for six. Two plays later, it’s third and two after the hometown fans don’t get a late-hit call on Ishaq Williams, but Gaffney up the middle moves the chains the next snap. 1:01 left, and Stanford’s near midfield with all its timeouts.
Gain of six and a timeout. Then Hogan gets sacked and Stanford inexplicably decides not to use its second timeout. Gaffney runs for 21 on the third and long to the Irish 35, but instead of 30 seconds and no timeouts, Stanford will now have five seconds and one (wasted) timeout with which to work. Risk/reward: even if the third down had failed and we had to punt, Notre Dame would have it at their 20 with 30 seconds left had we used all our timeouts. That’s not much of a risk to have to bear for greatly enhancing your odds of actually putting points on the board before the half.
Instead, it’s Hail Mary time, and Notre Dame slaps down a ball in the end zone to bring the half to a close. Hopefully those points won’t matter, but Stanford just cost itself a shot at three, and possibly seven, by not using the timeout after the sack of Hogan at Stanford’s 44, with approximately 45 seconds to go in the half.
Stanford 14, Notre Dame 6, Halftime
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