As our fourth quarter starts, Stanford hasn’t gone to the air yet. Instead, it's Tyler Gaffney for five, then Kevin Hogan keeps for 11, and then Gaffney for two and for six. On third and two, the Cardinal do go aerial, but just for the minimum – Kodi Whitfield catches and extends for two yards to move the chains. Then, it’s back to basics, with Gaffney rumbling for 12 and the clock now under 12 minutes. Tick, tick, tick.
Gaffney loses a yard, but then the wildcat fly sweep to Young gains six. Third and five at Notre Dame’s 12, up four, ten minutes to go. What do you call here?
It’s shotgun, two backs, but Stanford elects to use their second timeout before the snap.
Elsewhere, it’s 3-0 Arizona State early. “Let’s go, Irish!” rings out here coming out of a timeout, and the 5,000 Irish fans are accounting for the most noise in the 50,000-person stadium as Hogan comes out on third and five with a designed keeper. It gains only one, and Williamson has to cap the drive with a 28-yard field goal. Notre Dame will be one play away from retying a game they trailed ever since nine minutes in.
Stanford 27, Notre Dame 20, 9:16 remaining
Kodi Whitfield and Kyle Olugbode combine for a nice stick of George Atkinson at the 18. Then the Irish go backwards, with Jordan Richards doing nicely to fight off a stiff arm and chase a sweeping Tarean Folston out of bounds for a loss of three. Second down sees Stanford’s first sack of the game, with Shayne Skov dropping Tommy Reis for seven. The Irish run a “give up and punt” draw on third and 20, and Stanford will reassume possession at their 49, needing just one score to all but clinch with 7:16 remaining.
The Cardinal have 235 rushing yards today. The season-high of 274 came against Oregon, and is in obvious peril. If the Cardinal do pass the 274 mark, they’ll have the most rushing yards since the epic 446-yard performance against Washington in 2011.
Alas, Stanford has all of one yard on this series, with Gaffney gaining the three feet on first down before Montgomery drops a streak in the Irish red zone on second down. His drops cost the Cardinal dearly against USC, and they might prove problematic here: The next snap, Michael Rector runs the same streak route, again down the left sideline – they must have seen something they liked – but Hogan underthrows and leaves it inside. Notre Dame intercepts the arm punt, Hogan’s second turnover of the game, at the 21, and will have 6:23 to try to come up with the game-tying touchdown. Had Stanford put up points before the half, the Irish would have less than a 10% chance of winning right now. Ugh.
Folston runs for 15 and then three to bring up a second and seven at the Irish 39. We’ve harped on Kevin Hogan’s shortcomings in this game, but Tommy Rees has struggled plenty too. He badly overshoots a receiver on the second down, and then on third, overshoots so badly that a waiting Wayne Lyons has the interception at the Cardinal 41. It’s Stanford’s 37th straight game with a takeaway, second-best nationally to Missouri. More importantly, after a Gaffney handoff for three, we’re under five minutes and Notre Dame has only two timeouts left.
13-0 ASU. Looks like we’re packing our bags for next week.
After another short handoff, it’s third and five, and Hogan does well to catch a high snap. He gives to Wilkerson, who goes for four. Fourth and one at midfield with 3:42 left. I imagine we punt, but I wish we’d go for this. Notre Dame is down to its last timeout, so if one first down didn’t put the game totally out of reach, it’d be close. (Best case for the Irish is two minutes, no timeouts and 80-plus yards to go.)
Instead, it’s a 29-yard punt, and the Notre Dame offense will get yet another shot at tying. 3:35 remaining as the Irish start at their 21 with one timeout, down 27-20. Total yards are 403-252, Stanford, but ND is plus-one in turnovers. Notre Dame for six, but the runner goes down in bounds. I’m thinking this one ends with another Tommy Rees pick, and Alex Carter almost proves me right on second down, but can’t quite hand on as he falls backwards out of bounds. Notre Dame then sees its right tackle, Zack Martin, false start, forcing a third and nine with 2:57 left. Punt or go for it with an incompletion here? Well, first, Trent Murphy tries to get a jump on Martin but goes too early, giving the Irish back those five yards. Okay, third and four for real now, and the chains move on a completion to Jones. Stanford, however, is arguing that it has the ball, but the officials aren’t buying. First down, Irish, at their 31 with 2:30 left.
Sure enough, Rees is exposed, badly underthrowing Williams Fuller, who had a step on Wayne Lyons. But Lyons turns around in time and intercepts, and it’s DEFCON-5 time for Notre Dame with only one timeout left and 2:24 on the clock. Gaffney runs for two. Then Notre Dame perfectly times the snap count, with Stanford trying to drain every last second, and a defensive tackle knifes into the backfield. Gaffney jukes around that guy, powers through a linebacker, and drags two defensive backs for a game-clinching first down and then some.
The 18-yard run will cap Gaffney’s line at 189 yards on 33 carries, for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Hogan finishes 12-of-18 for 158 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Devon Cajuste’s 75 yards and a touchdown led the receiving corps. Wayne Lyons had two interceptions, while A.J. Tarpley and Ed Reynolds paced the defense with seven tackles apiece. For Notre Dame, the MVP was probably linebacker Dan Fox, with 15 tackles in a losing effort.
Stanford improves to 10-2 and should pick up a spot or two from its current No. 8 BCS ranking, depending on tonight’s results. Notre Dame drops to 8-4. The Cardinal will likely be traveling to No. 12 Arizona State, currently up 20-0 on Arizona, with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line in a potential top-10 matchup. Not a bad way to end the season.
In sum then, it was ugly, but the Cardinal did what they needed to, likely finishing their home campaign with a 27-20 win over Notre Dame. Josh Mauro’s health will be a major storyline heading into next weekend’s Pac-12 Championship.
Stanford 27, Notre Dame 20 (Final)
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