Stanford tops Notre Dame 38-20 for third consecutive win over the Irish. The Washington Huskies also finished off the Washington State Huskies giving the Cardinal the invite to the Pac-12 Championship game. It was a great night for Stanford football.
Notre Dame and Stanford came into the game tonight with a bit of the luster gone. Notre Dame had struggled against Navy the prior week, and took a savage beating from the Miami Hurricanes the week before that. Neither team was realistically in the College Football Playoff conversation. Stanford, however, was in contention for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game pending the outcome of the Apple Cup taking place at the same time.
Still, the quiet potential for another close game with an intense finish was there. In fact, the Irish and Cardinal often seem to find themselves in close games in recent years. Since 2007 the two have finished within one score eight times. The 2017 game figured to be another close one with Vegas and most prognosticators predicting another close game.
For the first three quarters it was a tight, back and forth game with both offenses slowly punching and counter punching their way to a Stanford halftime lead of 14-10. Notre Dame would win the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead headed into the final frame. In the fourth quarter, however, things came unglued for the Irish and Stanford ruthlessly capitalized.
In many ways this was a game of contradictions. Stanford with Bryce Love was known for having explosive offensive plays taking huge chunk yards or 50+ yard touchdown runs. The Irish would methodically pound the ball down the field with an aggressive rushing attack. Notre Dame had also established an identity as a team that both protected the football, forced turnovers, and capitalized on those turnovers.
Bryce love had a solid 31-yard run but otherwise was not particularly explosive. The two Notre Dame touchdowns though were. Notre Dame has been a run first team all year but had two huge touchdown passes one for 83 yards and another for 75. Outside of those two scores the Irish offense was anemic tonight. Notre Dame was nearing an average of 300 rushing yards per game. The Stanford offense held them comfortably under 200.
Notre Dame normally creates and capitalizes upon turnovers to great effect. Tonight in the fourth quarter, however, it was Stanford winning with takeaways. Stanford had just retaken the lead 24-20. On the first play of the next possession Brandon Wimbush threw an interception to Curtis Robinson. In three plays K.J. Costello extended the Stanford lead to 31-20. On the ensuing kickoff the Irish fumbled the return with Stanford recovering. It took four plays for Stanford to extend the lead to 38-20. The Irish feeling the urgency began to move the ball down the field until Frank Buncom intercepted Wimbush again, this time in the end zone. Buncom’s interception proved to be the final nail.
Stanford, once left for dead in the Pac-12 race now turns their attention toward winning the Pac-12 Championship with a rematch against the USC Trojans who dominated the Cardinal back in September.