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Men’s Interhall Football: Perfection lost … and won

Griffin Dassatti | Monday, November 19, 2007

Though there will be no physical change to the chapel shared by Stanford and Keenan, the residents of both North Quad halls know that the sanctuary will be very different until next fall.With Stanford’s 12-8 victory in Sunday’s Interhall Football championship, it not only won the title, but also the Battle for the Chapel, meaning all masses held for the two dorms in the coming year will be held in the “Stanford-Keenan Chapel.” Keenan had won the Battle for as long as Stanford seniors have been at Notre Dame, so when the Griffins beat the Knights 12-8 in the regular season, it looked like the tables had finally turned. But when both teams won their semifinal games, the Chapel was once again up for grabs.The game started off slowly, when Keenan recorded the only first down in the first quarter on a nine-yard scamper by freshman quarterback Brian Castello. After a three-and-out to begin the second quarter, the Knights pinned Stanford on its own 27-yard line. It was here that the Griffins struck.After getting a first down, Stanford quarterback Brian Salvi hit freshman wide receiver Tom Smith on a 43-yard bomb, putting the Griffins at the Keenan 2-yard line. Salvi said after the game that the play – a play-action with a fake reverse – worked just as he’d planned it.”We set it up earlier in the game,” Salvi said. “We knew it was going to work because their safety [bit] on the reverse. As soon as I turned around, I knew I had [Smith].” Stanford needed just one play to capitalize on the big gain when senior running back Tregg Duerson crossed the goal line. Down 7-0, the Knights began a comeback attempt. On the second play of the drive, Castello hooked up with senior receiver Jon Wood for a 42-yard pass, putting his team in position to score at the Stanford 24-yard line. After a 10-yard run by senior fullback Joe Pappas, however, the Knights’ drive stalled. With 1:40 left in the half, Keenan decided to go for it on a fourth-and-three from the Stanford 7-yard line. Castello hit junior Jim Zenker in the end zone for what would have been the game-tying score, but the play was called back for offensive holding and after a botched fake field goal, the half ended.While he credited his opponents, sophomore captain Pat Burns said the Knights’ multiple missed opportunities fell mainly on themselves.”Stanford’s defense stepped up when they had to,” he said. “Obviously our offensive line did everything they could. Every once in a while [Stanford called] the right blitz at the right time but there’s still no excuse for us not scoring that close to the goal line. It was just execution that was the problem.” The second half saw another long Keenan drive that went 73 yards in 14 plays before Stanford freshman inside linebacker Colin McNamara picked off a Castello pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.After holding the Griffins to a three-and-out, Keenan got the ball back on the Stanford 47-yard line, but were forced to punt after making just one first down. It looked like the Griffins would finally seal the deal, but an interception by Wood gave the Knights the ball with 2:30 left in the game on the Stanford 37-yard line. At this point, senior captain Rob Huth and the rest of his Stanford teammates had plenty of reason to feel uneasy. But Huth said this was nothing new.”We’ve won with defense all year,” he said. “I’ll put our defense out there against anybody. I knew we’d get the stop. [Our] back [was] kind of to the wall, but when we’ve had our backs to the wall we’ve done well this year, so I really wasn’t worried.”The defense came through as sophomore cornerback Chris Gill intercepted a Castello pass intended for Wood inside the five-yard line to clinch the title for the Griffins.”[We knew] we couldn’t let anything behind us,” Gill said. “We needed to keep everything in front of us, make the tackles, keep them in bounds, keep the clock running. If you could make a play, don’t take a chance, but step up and make it and end the game.”With the game over, and the championship and chapel won, Huth said this was the perfect ending to Stanford’s perfect season.”It feels awesome to walk away from this, the last time the seniors put the pads on [with a win,]” Huth said. “This feels great for everybody, we put a lot of hard work in this season. I feel like a lot of people underestimated us all season, didn’t give us our due, but we went out here and proved today by beating [Keenan] again that we’re the best team in Interhall this year.”