The Cardinal opened the game almost exactly as we suggested, moving the ball with Hogan's legs and passing the ball over the head of the blitzing Notre Dame front seven. Stanford jumped out early on a pass to Remound Wright chewing up about five and a half minutes on the drive. The ensuing kickoff, however, went for a touchdown tying the game as C.J. Sanders went untouched for the 93 yard return.
On the next possession Bryce Love saw some action but it was the passing game and Hogan's legs that moved the ball. Stanford went on another long drive chewing up clock and working around the pressure from the Notre Dame defensive front. The drive ended when the Cajuste got loose as Hogan hit Devon Cajuste in the end zone. A 7:24 second drive gave Stanford a 14-7 lead with less than 2 minutes left in the first quarter. Interestingly Notre Dame would not run their first play from the line of scrimmage until 1:48 left in the first quarter.
Not surprisingly on the first snap for the Irish DeShone Kizer moved the pocket and went straight to Will Fuller for a huge gain followed by an outside run by Adams and another pass to Fuller followed by two more runs by Adams that moved the Irish to the Stanford 22 where the first quarter would draw to a close.
Notre Dame moved deeper into the red zone but the drive stalled on a snap infraction on what was fourth and short that forced the Irish to settle for a field goal. With Notre Dame's propensity to turn the ball over, and Stanford's propensity to significantly reduce the number of possessions for opposing teams Notre Dame opted to go for it on fourth and short. Brian Kelly changed his mind after the penalty and the Irish settled for three. With the likelihood of minimal possessions Notre Dame needs touchdowns to win, forcing the field goal was a big victory for the Stanford defense.
The Irish defense was able to force a punt. The Cardinal punter was able to pin the Irish deep in their own territory but Kizer and Adams were able to move the ball with ease as Stanford was clearly employing a bend but don't break strategy. Notre Dame's drive stalled once again inside the Stanford ten forcing the Irish to settle for a field goal once again. With 5:02 left in the half, Stanford clung to a one-point lead.
Notre Dame made a few tweaks on defense and Kevin Hogan began to wither under the pressure as we have seen him do before. Stanford was forced into another punt as the Cardinal offense looks anemic. Notre Dame then did what Stanford simply could not allow. Kizer threw a deep pass to Will Fuller on the opening play of the drive for a touchdown giving the Irish a 20-14 lead and a huge momentum boost.
The Notre Dame momentum was short-lived however as Shaw made adjustments on offense and Hogan came back out firing a touchdown strike retaking the one point lead.
A fumble by Kizer deep in Stanford territory ended the drive and half.
Notre Dame started the second half once again slicing through the Stanford defense up until the red zone where the Irish once again have to settle for a field goal retaking the lead 23-21.
four trips to the red zone, nine points for Notre Dame #NDvsSTAN— Ben Leonard (@ben___leonard) November 29, 2015
Notre Dame has run 34 plays and has 15 first downs.— Todd Husak (@ToddHusak) November 29, 2015
So, Stanford’s best defense is its offense. That’s apparent now. Let’s see how much clock they can chew.— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 29, 2015
Fortunately for Stanford Hogan and the offense made some adjustments of their own and Hogan hit Cajuste for a huge gain taking them deep into Notre Dame territory.
Naturally Remound Wright finished the drive punching the ball into the end zone giving Stanford a 28-23 lead and Notre Dame vs. Stanford is turning into a defense optional shootout on the Farm.
Notre Dame responded, however, with another touchdown of their own, this time with a huge run (well outside of the red zone) by Josh Adams. The Irish would go for two but fail. Stanford would go back to work on offense trying but the Irish held a slim 29-28 lead headed into the fourth.
Deja vu entering the 4th quarter: Feels like Stanford-Oregon again, but ND instead of Ducks. Cardinal fumbled 2 snaps in 4th qtr before...— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 29, 2015
Stanford started the fourth quarter with what else? Another touchdown. This time a pass to Austin Hooper. Stanford up 35-29.
The Stanford defense followed up the Hooper touchdown with an actual, honest to goodness defense stop outside of the red zone (literally the first of the night). A three and out no less. Stanford has a 6 point lead at this point and an opportunity to chew up plenty of clock and extend it to a two-score game. Unfortunately the exact opposite happened and Notre Dame made a huge defensive stop of their own. Notre Dame got the ball back with about 12 minutes left in the game but could not accomplish much with it.
We got Bad Shaw that series. Just awful with a quarterback playing as well as Hogan.— R.J. Abeytia (@RJ_Abeytia) November 29, 2015
With ten minutes left in the game, and a resurgence from both teams' defense the vibe of the game seemed to switch from "last team to score wins" to "next team to score win". Fortunately for Stanford they had the ball and were once again on the move but the Notre Dame defense continued to have answers for Christian McCaffrey and another stop gave the ball back to the Irish.
Kevin Hogan’s passer rating is 260.7 today and he’s averaging 12.7 yards per attempt, but Stanford is hesitant to rely on his arm here— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 29, 2015
But the possession was not all bad news:
With the clock below six minutes and Notre Dame trailing by six the Irish are running out of chances, Stanford clearly desperate to keep Notre Dame out of the end zone. This drive quickly turned into the most important drive of the game.
Notre Dame is in the red zone. If they finish 1-for-5 there, they probably win this game.— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 29, 2015
Both teams have 3 timeouts left. The clock chess match will be fascinating here. ND 0-4 on RZ touchdowns— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 29, 2015
Stanford drove inside the Stanford 10 with under two minutes to play and the clock ticking. David Shaw opted not to use any of his time outs apparently having decided that red zone defense is where Stanford would make their last stand. On third and three from the Stanford ten Notre Dame came up just shy forcing a dramatic fourth and one but Josh Adams came up huge for the Irish converting on fourth down and moving the ball to the Stanford two. The next play DeShone Kizer bootlegged into the end zone. for the touchdown. Notre Dame takes a 36-35 lead with 30 seconds left. The play was reviewed and Kizer probably was short, but the play stood.
With 25 seconds left Stanford took over from the Stanford 27. A Notre Dame face mask gave Stanford a quick 15 yards and David Shaw used a timeout. The next play Hogan throws deep to Rector but the pass sailed over his head. The next play Hogan hits Cajuste for 26 yards across the middle of the field getting the Cardinal into field goal range. \
Conrad Ukropina would attempt a 45-yard kick and nailed it Stanford wins! 38-36. What a game!!