Notre Dame defeats Stanford, 17-14
Alex Carson | Saturday, October 4, 2014
With three minutes and 65 yards to go, No. 9 Notre Dame’s offense needed a touchdown. It got it when senior quarterback Everett Golson hit senior tight end Ben Koyack for a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-11, giving the Irish (5-0) a 17-14 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.
After an incompletion on first down, Golson found sophomore receiver Will Fuller for 11 yards over the middle. On third-and-10, he hit sophomore receiver Corey Robinson for 17. A pass interference penalty on Stanford senior cornerback Wayne Lyons and a three-yard completion to Robinson got the Irish inside the 25, but an incompletion and a four-yard loss on a Golson draw play left Notre Dame’s hopes resting on fourth down.
Golson — and Koyack — delivered. Golson scrambled around and found Koyack open in the corner of the end zone.
“I just know I had a flag route,” Koyack said. “All I saw was a safety in the middle; I didn’t see where anyone else was. I just kept running my route looking for the ball.”
“They had, really, our routes covered,” Golson said. “I went to my first read and he wasn’t there. I began to just improvise a little bit and I guess they busted the coverage a little bit and I found Koyack in the back of the end zone.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly praised the work of his team’s offensive line on the final drive.
“We did a really good job in the last drive of picking up some stunts and blitzes with our offensive line,” Kelly said. “I was really pleased with that.”
Stanford — which was held to just 205 yards of offense on 68 plays, its lowest yard-per-play output since 2006 — took the initial lead, 7-0, with 3:50 to play in the first quarter when senior quarterback Kevin Hogan ran 10 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinal was granted favorable field position on the drive after an exchange of turnovers — Irish sophomore cornerback Cole Luke intercepted Hogan on the nine-yard line, but Golson gave the ball right back when he fumbled on the first play.
Early in the second quarter, the Irish had a third-and-five at the Cardinal six-yard line when Stanford senior safety Jordan Richards intercepted Golson — who had rolled out to the left — along the sideline, just shy of the goal line. On its next possession, Notre Dame left points on the board when senior kicker Kyle Brindza missed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide right after a botched hold.
But after the Cardinal had a botched snap of its own on a field-goal try, the Irish finally got on the board.
On third-and-10 from midfield, Golson rushed 33 yards upfield on a designed quarterback draw to put the Irish in a position to tie the game in the final few minutes of the first half.
“I thought outside of a quarterback draw, which is an outstanding call versus two high, I thought our defense did a good job of containing him up until the last play,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said.
Two plays later — on second-and-10 — Golson hit junior receiver Chris Brown over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown pass. Brown caught the ball just a few yards past the line of scrimmage but turned upfield to scamper in for the score with 3:06 to play in the half.
Coming out of the intermission, Irish freshman safety Drue Tranquill registered Notre Dame’s first blocked punt since 2010 when he got a hand on Cardinal fifth-year senior punter Ben Rhyne’s kick.
“I thought we did pretty good things in special teams,” Kelly said. “It gave us a chance to win today.”
The Irish, however, could not capitalize, and three consecutive three-and-outs followed.
Notre Dame earned its best starting field position of the game when Luke nabbed his second interception at the Stanford 29-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“[The opportunity for interceptions was] something that I knew was coming during practice when I was watching film,” Luke said. “But it really is just all about execution and somebody making plays so tonight, I stepped up.”
Despite the field position, the Irish left the red zone without points yet again when Brindza missed his second field-goal attempt after another shaky hold by junior Hunter Smith.
The Irish defense, however, responded with another three-and-out — the Cardinal failed to record a first down or turned the ball over on 10 of their 15 drives — to give the offense another chance to take the lead.
“We prepared so great this week,” sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We all knew going into the week, Stanford week, it was going to be physical. They are going to try to hit you in the mouth and we just had to match that intensity — and penetration was key.”
Golson then hit Robinson for a pair of double-digit gains, and a Stanford facemask penalty put the Irish in position for Brindza and Smith’s redemption. The smooth 45-yard field goal did just that, and the Irish jumped ahead 10-7 with 7:32 to play in the fourth quarter.
Smith attempted to hold the first two field-goal tries barehanded before wearing gloves for the third.
“We found a revolutionary idea that will probably be now the biggest thing in college football,” Kelly said. “We’re going to put gloves on the holder and that seemed to be the way to accomplish greatness in this game. Unbelievable. I’ve been in this thing for 25 years and we’re coming up with new things every day.”
The Irish did not hold the lead for long, though, as Hogan led Stanford on its only substantial touchdown drive of the day, going 58 yards to take the lead, 14-10, with 3:01 to play.
Then it was Golson’s time. The Irish quarterback finished the game with 241 passing yards — none more important than his final 54 on the game-winning drive.
Hogan and the Cardinal had one last chance though. After a touchback, he led them into Irish territory with 11 seconds to play. But Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder brought the pressure, and the Hogan’s intentional grounding capped the Irish victory.
Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt attributed his team’s success to staying within VanGorder’s game plan.
“For the most part, I tried to play within the scheme,” Schmidt said. “Try to see what they were trying to attack us with. I think this is a linebacker’s game; I think Jaylon had the career game. This was a fun game for both of us.”
The Notre Dame defense held Stanford senior receiver Ty Montgomery to 12 yards on four receptions, well under his average of nearly 70 yards per game over the last season-and-a-half.
“We knew he was a great player,” Luke said. “But when the lights come on and you are on the field, it does not really matter. You just have to make plays and play ball.”
The Irish are set to host North Carolina next week before a clash with No. 1 Florida State.
“You just have to avoid the noise,” Irish senior center and captain Nick Martin said. “We’re a really tight-knit team and that’s just going to help us and make us better. We just have to keep everyone close and focus on North Carolina.”
As for being 5-0?
Martin said it was a “great feeling.”
Schmidt “can’t tell you how good it feels.”
Golson said he is “not too, I guess, upset.”
Regardless of how you put it, the Irish are 5-0 for just the third time in the last 20 seasons.