Head to Head: Stanford vs. Notre Dame
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, October 2, 2014
Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan enters his third year as a starter with a 19-4 record since he succeeded Andrew Luck. Hogan’s experience gives him poise, which he demonstrated in Stanford’s 20-13 win over Washington on Sept. 27. Late in the fourth quarter, Hogan pushed the Cardinal down field, carrying the ball himself four times, including an 11-yard rush and the five-yard, game-winning touchdown run. Hogan has used his athleticism to rush for 87 yards this season, and he runs for an average of 21.8 per game.
Hogan has been accurate this season, completing 71 percent of his passes.
But Stanford has struggled to score in the red zone. The Cardinal have converted 63 percent of their red zone opportunities into scores and only 42 percent into touchdowns. Still, Hogan has a powerful arm and can change the game quickly if his receivers find some space.
This will be the most challenging quarterback the Irish pass defense has faced this season. The secondary has played well so far but will have to be more diligent than ever in defending against deep threats. The secondary hasn’t been burned much this season, but this could be the game when that changes.
Stanford’s run game has been successful this season, but the Cardinal haven’t put up any eye-popping numbers. Stanford rushed for its most yards on the season against Army on Sept. 13 but still fell short of the 200 mark with 199 yards. USC limited the Cardinal to 128 rushing yards.
Junior running back Barry Sanders’ 7.3 yards per carry is noteworthy; however, Sanders has just 153 rushing yards on the season. Seniors Remound Wright and Kelsey Young round out Stanford’s three-pronged rushing attack, adding 153 and 150 yards, respectively. But none of these three has scored a rushing touchdown this season. Senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery has one rushing touchdown, senior fullback Patrick Skov has one (and only nine rushing yards), and Hogan has one.
Notre Dame’s run defense has fared well against several hard-running teams this season, including Michigan. The Irish should be able to step up again.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
CARDINAL OFFENSIVE COACHING
Cardinal offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren has been at Stanford for four years, and this is his second season as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. In 2013, Bloomgren’s first season in the position, Stanford rushed for 2,904 yards, the best in program history.
But Bloomgren had running back Tyler Gaffney, who rushed for 1,709 yards and an average of 122.1 yards per game. This season, Stanford hasn’t had the same run advantage and hasn’t converted red zone opportunities efficiently.
Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s creative defensive should match up well against a Cardinal team trying to find its identity on offense
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
CARDINAL SPECIAL TEAMS
Senior punt and kick returner Ty Montgomery has been a special teams blessing to Stanford. At his Tuesday press conference, Irish head coach Brian Kelly called Montgomery “one of the best skill players and special teams players in the country.”
Montgomery returns an average of 21.8 yards on punts and 29.8 yards on kickoffs.
Redshirt senior kicker Jordan Williamson has been inconsistent. He has made just half of his eight field goal attempts this year with a long of 35 yards. Given Stanford’s red zone struggles, this is a liability.
CARDINAL SCHEDULE (3-1)
Aug. 30 UC Davis (W 45-0)
Sept. 6 USC (L 13-10)
Sept. 13 Army (W 35-0)
Sept. 27 @ Washington (W 20-13)
Oct. 4 @ Notre Dame
Oct. 10 Washington State
Oct. 18 @ Arizona State
Oct. 25 Oregon State
Nov. 1 @ Oregon
Nov. 15 Utah
Nov. 22 @ California
Nov. 28 @ UCLA
O.K., so Everett Golson isn’t perfect. He threw two interceptions against Syracuse last week, and it took a while for him to start looking sharp.
But his talent is undeniable. He has piled up 1,142 yards and 11 passing touchdowns. He has run for four more. He and sophomore receiver Will Fuller have found a connection to the tune of five touchdown receptions for Fuller. Along with Fuller, receivers Corey Robinson, Amir Carlisle, Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise have provided Golson with an array of options.
And even though the game against Syracuse got ugly, Golson still completed a string of 25 straight passes, a Notre Dame record a one shy of the FBS record.
Stanford’s defense has allowed only one passing touchdown this season, but it will have its hands full trying to stop Golson and his dynamic set of receivers. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinal can shut them down, although Stanford likely will limit Notre Dame’s production more than any team yet this season.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame’s rushing attack still hasn’t fully clicked. Running backs Cam McDaniel, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant have yet to live up to the potential they’ve displayed in past seasons. They were more involved in the win over Syracuse as the Irish were able to activate the screen pass, something the offense hadn’t quite managed in previous games.
Notre Dame had its best rushing game of the season in the opener against Rice, amassing 281 yards. Since then, however, the Irish runners have posted more modest results and haven’t had a breakout game. It will be tough to change that against Stanford.
The Cardinal run defense has been slightly more porous than the pass defense. But it still has limited opponents to 124 rushing yards per game and just one rushing touchdown.
Still, with changes to the Irish offensive line taking shape, Notre Dame’s rushing game could come alive.
IRISH OFFENSIVE COACHING
The Irish offensive coaching staff seemed to have Syracuse’s defense figured out, as Everett Golson had 25-straight completions and 362 yards of passing. Granted, most of those passes were short but the screen passes allowed for the running game in between the tackles to open up for 162 total yards. Stanford’s defense will not be so easy to figure out.
The Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Anderson has been the genius behind one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to only 6.5 points per game with two shutouts. Stanford is the top-ranked team in points allowed, passing yards allowed and passing yard allowed.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Neither team has given up many yards or any points on punt returns or kickoff returns.
But the difference lies in field goals and field position.
Irish kicker and punter Kyle Brindza has been 7-9 on field goals so far this season with a long of 48-yards, while Stanford senior kicker Jordan Williamson is only 4-8 and hasn’t made a field goal over 35 yards. If the game comes down to a field goal, as it likely will, Brindza has the better leg and accuracy.
As for the punt game, Brindza is averaging 43.1 yards per punt, while Stanford senior Ben Rhyne is averaging 38.8 yards per punt. With strong defenses, every yard will matter in a battle of field position.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
IRISH SCHEDULE (4-0)
Aug. 30 Rice (W 48-17)
Sept. 6 Michigan (W 31-0)
Sept. 13 vs. Purdue (W 30-14)
Sept. 27 Syracuse (W 31-15)
Oct. 4 Stanford
Oct. 11 North Carolina
Oct. 18 @ Florida State
Nov. 1 vs. Navy
Nov. 8 @ Arizona State
Nov. 15 Northwestern
Nov. 22 Louisville
Nov. 29 @ USC