by John Vannie
Notre Dame fought gamely to overcome an early deficit, but Stanford’s Wayne Lyons thwarted a fourth quarter comeback with two pass interceptions by as the Cardinal held on for a 27-20 victory. Tyler Gaffney paced a relentless ground attack that racked up 265 yards against the undermanned Irish defense, but the scrappy visitors would not go away quietly. Two Irish interceptions of Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan kept the outcome in doubt until Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees returned the favor in the final minutes.
Trailing 21-6 in the third quarter, Rees tossed two touchdown passes in a six minute span to bring his team to within 24-20. Stanford answered with a ground based assault that reached inside the Irish ten yard line, but a key third down stop by Romeo Okwara forced them to settle for a Jordan Williamson field goal and a 27-20 advantage with nine minutes to play. Notre Dame subsequently had three chances to tie the game, but each possession ended in disaster. A costly sack and the two errant throws to Lyons left a bitter taste in what had been an error free game by Rees and the Irish offense.
In retrospect, the tone was set early in the contest when Notre Dame was held to field goals in its two first half scoring chances, while the Cardinal reached the end zone twice for a 14-6 lead at intermission. Anthony Wilkerson’s 20-yard touchdown run extended the advantage to 21-6 before Rees found his rhythm. Stanford never lost control of the game, however, as evidenced by its 200 yard advantage on the ground.
The Irish came into the game with the intention of running the ball, but fell behind early and trailed throughout the evening. As a result, they managed only 24 attempts for 64 net yards. Rees threw 34 times and completed 16 with two touchdowns and the pair of interceptions. Conversely, Stanford held the ball for nearly 35 minutes and threw just 18 times against 51 rushes.
The loss dropped Notre Dame to 8-4 on the season, and the team must wait another week before the post season bowl invitations are issued. Senior guard Chris Watt left the game in the second quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury. He did not return to action.