Hyped as a primetime showdown between two top-20 teams with smashmouth defenses, the Notre Dame-Stanford matchup lived up to its billing for 60 minutes on Saturday—and then some.
In rainy conditions from South Bend, Ind., No. 17 Stanford’s upset bid came up inches short against No. 7 Notre Dame after Stepfan Taylor was stopped on the inch-yard line on fourth down in overtime, with the final score 20-13.
The result was certainly not without controversy, however, as the final play was reviewed after it appeared as though Taylor was able to stretch the ball over the goal line with a second effort after being stopped by the initial defensive surge.
The call on the field stood, however, and Notre Dame’s fans stormed the field as the Irish push continues toward a potential BCS bowl berth and national championship.
Redshirt junior quarterback Josh Nunes struggled for most of the game, completing 11 passes for 130 yards and throwing two interceptions. But once again he didn’t receive much help from his wide receivers, who dropped at least three or four catchable balls.
While Nunes struggled, however, the Stanford defense thrived.
Senior defensive end Ben Gardner stripped Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson in the end zone and redshirt senior Chase Thomas recovered for the touchdown that put Stanford up 7-3 in the second quarter. It was the first time the Irish had trailed all season, and the Cardinal did not relinquish the lead until Notre Dame scored on the first possession of overtime.
Notre Dame’s defense, stout all afternoon long, came up big when it mattered most. Taylor ripped off several long runs to set up first and goal from inside the four-yard line. But he was turned away on four straight inside runs, the last of which saw the Irish storm straight through the Cardinal offensive line.
Stanford’s loss does little to affect its chance at the Pac-12 title—the Cardinal can still earn its way to the conference championship game if it wins out in league play—but the nonconference defeat will all but assuredly eliminate all chance of an at-large bid to one of the BCS bowls.
Next up for Stanford is the 115th Big Game against rival California, scheduled to kick off next Saturday at noon from Berkeley, Calif.