We may put too much stock into statistics and averages sometimes, but they’ve certainly proven true for No. 7 Notre Dame (6-0). The Golden Domers’ defense was giving up 183.2 passing yards per game; they held Josh Nunes to 125. They were allowing 106.8 rushing yards; Stepfan Taylor had 28 carries for 102 yards. They were allowing an average of 7.8 points per game, and No. 17 Stanford’s offense could only score 6.
The Cardinal’s defense was equally oppressive (more on them in a minute), as Notre Dame’s offense was ineffective for most of the game. Still, they caved in during a long Notre Dame drive that finished with the Irish kicked a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation. Stanford (4-2) won the toss and elected to defend for the first period of overtime but the defense could no longer hold, allowing Tommy Rees (in for Everett Golson, who was sidelined in the fourth quarter with a concussion) to complete three consecutive passes: two to move the chains after being sacked on first down, and one for the go-ahead touchdown.
Stanford answered Notre Dame’s passing game with the run, using the legs of Josh Nunes and Stepfan Taylor to push it to the 1/16th of an inch line. That was where Notre Dame’s defense held for good, stuffing Taylor on two straight runs up the middle to end the game.
On that 4th down stop
David Shaw will probably be criticized for the unimaginative goal line play calling and those arguments won’t be unwarranted. Still, considering how difficult it was for any player not named Taylor to do anything against the Irish, I can’t really blame him for going to his bell cow. One of the running back’s biggest strengths is his ability to shake off first contact, and he showed exactly that on his final rush of the game.
The call on the field was that Taylor was down short of the goal line. Because none of the referees signaled touchdown, the frenzied Notre Dame crowd rushed the field and had to be called off so that the officials could review the play. After a short minute or two, head referee Shawn Hochuli (yes, son of Mr. Gun Show) explained that the replay was inconclusive and the game was over.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, in his on-field interview, proclaimed that “There’s no question [Stepfan Taylor’s] forward progress was stopped.” That may be true, but the ruling was that Taylor was down after second effort. Was it a good call or a very unfortunate aspect of home field advantage? You tell me.
— Stanford’s defense wasn’t so shabby, either – they allowed 334 yards of offense, 184 through the air and 150 on the ground. They also forced three fumbles, one of which Chase Thomas recovered in the end zone for the Cardinal’s only touchdown of the day.
— Not a great day for Josh Nunes, who was 12-for-25 for 125 yards and two interceptions, both of which came in the first half. All told, Nunes seemed to rise to the occasion late in the game, completing three first down passes in a 16-play fourth quarter drive that resulted in a go-ahead field goal. His 13-yard overtime run was yet another example of Nunes’s sneaky rushing ability; the quarterback sidestepped pressuring linemen before tucking the ball and running, nearly reaching the first down marker in the process.
— Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson was 2-for-3 on field goals Saturday, one of which was good from 48 yards.
— The Cardinal have yet to score an offensive touchdown in two road games.
— Tight end Zach Ertz was Stanford’s leading receiver with four catches for 55 yards. His counterpart, Levine Toilolo, was held without a catch for the first time this season.