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Behind enemy lines: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Wide receiver Devon Cajuste makes a diving grab in last year's tilt with Notre Dame, in which he racked up 125 receiving yards to lead the Cardinal. Saturday's game in South Bend could see an improvement in Stanford's currently stagnant offense as senior wide receiver Francis Owusu returns from injury. (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily)

As Stanford football tries to end its slip into mediocrity with a matchup against the Fighting Irish, another team whose start of the season has took an unexpected turn, The Daily’s Vihan Lakshman investigated Notre Dame’s plans to best the Cardinal in a discussion with Joshua Vowles, the site manager at One Foot Down.

 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What has been the general reaction amongst Notre Dame fans, players and coaches regarding the team’s 2-4 start to the season? What would a win over Stanford mean to the Irish moving forward.

Joshua Vowles (JV): The Notre Dame fan-base is in an absolute uproar right now. 2-4 starts were supposed to be a thing of the past — especially with how easy the first six games of this season should have been. While I would guess that 75 percent of the fans are calling for “heads to roll,” there are a dedicated few that are rolling with the punches and trying to look at this disaster of a start with at least some logic.

It’s hard to gauge the coaches’ and the players’ reactions, other than their body language that suggest that they are defeated. Brian Kelly looks and sounds miserable right now — and for good reasons.

A win over Stanford would signify that this team isn’t giving up and will continue to work hard. Although for the season it seems small, Notre Dame has the chance to return about 19 starters next year, and that includes DeShone Kizer.

TSD: How has the Irish defense performed after the firing of coordinator Brian VanGorder? How do you think the Notre Dame defense will do against a Stanford offense that has struggled mightily in its last three games?

JV: Notre Dame is now two games removed from Brian VanGorder and even with the weirdness that we had last week while playing in a hurricane, the Irish defense appears to be on more of an upward trend. They are playing hard, playing a lot looser, and we’ve seen much more “swarm” as it pertains to their tackling. The tackling is still a bit atrocious (to borrow Brian Kelly’s favorite word from last week).

It’s hard to say how Notre Dame will now lineup against Stanford. The last two weeks have been such paradoxes in how the games eventually panned out. Syracuse was tempo, tempo, tempo with the passing game, and N.C. State used a “mudder” running attack to score three points. Notre Dame probably matches up better against a team like Stanford right now, but it has got to tackle better.

TSD: What are your keys to the game for the Irish?

JV: Did I say anything about tackling yet? Notre Dame has got to wrap and swarm the ball carriers. Regardless if McCaffery plays or not, this is the most important thing they can do. Notre Dame also has to establish a rhythm on offense. Stanford seems vulnerable on the back end, and Kelly knows how to exploit that — but they have to be able to be unpredictable with their run/pass play-calling.

TSD: Stanford has never won in South Bend in the David Shaw era. Do you expect that trend to continue this year? In general, how do you see this one shaping out?

JV: I do expect Notre Dame to win, but I think this shapes up to be another classic. Both teams are a disappointment this season, and this game could have been HUGE had they both not stumbled. This is THE best rivalry in college football for the past decade and I’m totally serious with that assessment.

Notre Dame will find ways to muck it up, while Stanford exploits the youth in the Irish secondary. In the end, the Irish will have a few more big plays than the Cardinal. Notre Dame 27, Stanford 24.

 

Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu and Joshua Vowles at subwaydomer26 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman

Vihan Lakshman's journey at The Stanford Daily came full-circle as he began his career as a football beat writer and now closes his time on The Farm in the same role. In between, he has served as an Opinions columnist and desk editor, a beat writer for Stanford baseball, and as a member of The Daily's Editorial Board. Vihan completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematical and Computational Science in 2016, and is currently pursuing a master's in Computational Mathematics. He also worked as a color commentator on KZSU football broadcasts during the 2015 season. To contact him, please send an email to vihan 'at' stanford.edu