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Ruthless return

Scott Brodfuehrer | Tuesday, December 2, 2003

PALO ALTO, Calif. – It might have been both homecoming and senior day at Stanford Stadium Saturday, but Irish coach Tyrone Willingham and seven other Notre Dame coaches who formerly served at Stanford didn’t go easy on the 13 seniors they recruited at The Farm, embarrassing the Cardinal with a 57-7 defeat.The 57 points scored by Notre Dame were the most since the 62 scored in a shutout over Rutgers on Nov. 23, 1996, Lou Holtz’s final game in Notre Dame Stadium. The loss was Stanford’s worst ever at home.The performance was what Willingham had been looking for all season.”This was more of what I anticipate out of our football team,” he said, later adding, “We’re getting closer to where I want to be.”Julius Jones opened the game with a 25-yard rush, setting the tone for a 218-yard, one touchdown performance that moved him to fifth among Notre Dame’s all-time single season rushers.”After that first carry, I felt pretty good. From then on, the offensive line kind of dominated,” said Jones, who became the first player in Notre Dame history to rush for over 200 yards in three games in a season.”It’s incredible, I never would have thought it would be me,” he added, “[I am] just thankful, give all the credit to my offensive line, my fullbacks, they played a hell of a game.”Three of Notre Dame’s touchdowns came on Ryan Grant rushes into the end zone. Diedrick credited the improvement of the offensive line, which also did not allow any sacks, with the team’s ability to rush the ball.”[We have an] offensive front with one guy who has two starts to his career, not a whole lot of experience,” Diedrick said. “… Now, [they are] beginning to not only have a good deal of confidence in themselves, but they’re executing a lot better and they’re playing as one unit and it does feed off itself.”Two touchdowns came on long passes from Quinn, a 65-yard reception by Matt Shelton in the first quarter and a 45-yard reception by Maurice Stovall in the third quarter.”We really haven’t stretched the field like that all year,” Quinn said. “It just felt great to get a couple big passes to [Stovall] and [Shelton].”The defense returned to last year’s dominating style of play by forcing three turnovers, including two fumbles that Quentin Burrell and Garron Bible returned for touchdowns. The defense only allowed Stanford to gain 251 yards during the game.Stanford’s lone score came in the third quarter after Notre Dame had already put 41 points on the board. The Cardinal began the drive at its own 35 following a D.J. Fitzpatrick kickoff that went out of bounds. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Chris Lewis threw a 65-yard touchdown reception to flanker Mark Bradford.Early the fourth quarter, Stanford put in backup quarterback Kyle Matter. The Cardinal threatened to score on his first drive, moving to the Notre Dame 33, but Matter was sacked by Corey Mays and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Stanford 24 yards backfield, and Stanford was forced to punt two plays later.Willingham pulled most of the starters by the fourth quarter, and dispelled any notion that he intended to run up the score.”I thought we did pull in the horns a little bit,” he said.The team’s main regret Saturday was that they had not reached this level of play until 11 games into the season.”[It’s] sad we couldn’t have done it earlier. What’s done is done,” Jones said. “We’ve got one more game and hopefully we will get four [wins] in a row, hopefully get something started for the guys next year.”