Irish Air Raid Beats Stanford

Jack Coan came out firing as Notre Dame streaked to a 24-0 halftime lead and rolled over an undermanned Stanford team by 45-14 on Saturday. With the Cardinal overplaying the run, Coan was able to stand inside a clean pocket and find open receivers most of the night. His one miscue led to the first touchdown scored against the Irish defense in four games, but Stanford never threatened to get back into the game. Notre Dame closes its regular season at 11-1 but must still hope for certain outcomes next week in conference championship games to determine its postseason fate.

The Irish started the game on defense for the first time this season, and it worked out well. The Cardinal went three and out before Coan took the field. A crisp touchdown drive began with a 33-yard pass to Kevin Austin and ended with a 16-yard scoring strike on a post route to Braden Lenzy. Later in the period, Notre Dame went on another long march that was capped by a short pass to Pete Takacs, who dragged a defender across the goal line. The Irish lead was 14-0 just two plays into the second quarter.

Justin Ademilola caused and recovered a fumble on the next Cardinal possession. The Irish were poised to score again but were stopped by a holding penalty. Jonathan Doerer came on to kick a field goal for a 17-0 margin.

After a quick three and out by Stanford, Coan directed another drive featuring passes to Michael Mayer and Lorenzo Styles. Kyren Williams finished things off with a one yard plunge with 4:47 remaining in the half. Stanford’s closest brush with points occurred on the last play of the half. Kicker Josh Karty boomed a 59-yard field goal attempt that had plenty of distance but was just wide.

Notre Dame is unaccustomed to receiving the second half kickoff, and Coan appeared to be disoriented. His third down pass was picked off by Jonathan McGill and returned to the Irish 13-yard line. The Cardinal found the end zone from there as Notre Dame’s no-touchdown streak ended at 14 quarters.

It took less than two minutes for the Irish offense to recover. A 61-yard pass from Coan to Austin set up a sneak by Coan for a touchdown. This deflated the Cardinal and the game settled into a punting contest for the rest of the third period.

Kevin Austin sets up a score with a 61-yard reception

Tyler Buchner was inserted at quarterback as the fourth quarter began. After a 33-yard run by Chris Tyree, Buchner scored untouched on his own 33-yard burst to stretch the lead to 38-7. Stanford answered against the Irish defensive reserves as Ben Yurosek rumbled in from 49 yards after snatching a pass from Tanner McKee.

There were still twelve minutes remaining with the score at 38-14. Rather than risk leaving the field with a more narrow margin of victory, Brian Kelly apparently decided he needed a few style points to impress the Playoff Committee. He reinserted Coan and the other offensive starters on the team’s final possession after Houston Griffith recovered a Cardinal fumble.

The move paid off as Coan hit Mayer down the sideline before Williams scored again with 58 seconds left. This run boosted Williams over the 1,000 yard mark for the season, and he earned every one of them. The 45-14 final score better reflected the dominance that the Irish displayed throughout the evening and allowed the team to leave the field on a high note.

While Stanford’s much-maligned rush defense “held” Notre Dame to 169 yards, Coan shredded the Cardinal secondary for 345 more. Austin and Mayer had more than 100 yards receiving each. The Irish defense yielded 55 yards on the ground and 172 through the air.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions for further analysis.

Can Stanford’s plus-sized offensive line handle the Irish defensive front? Not really. They were big but looked fat and slow. The Ademilola brothers pushed them around all night.

Will Notre Dame take advantage of Stanford’s porous rush defense? The Cardinal committed their safeties to the box to minimize the Irish running game, but paid a heavy price for that gamble.

Can the Irish finally score a touchdown on their opening drive? Yes! Who knew it would come after Stanford had the ball first? Maybe Kelly should defer once in a while when he wins the toss.

Will Notre Dame’s defense put more points on the board? Not directly, but the great play by Justin Ademilola led to a field goal.

To what extent will hometown favorite Isaiah Foskey make his presence felt? Foskey was largely held in check by Cardinal tackle Walter Rouse, but Rouse had help on many of those passing downs.

Which Irish freshman will have a breakout performance this week? Styles and Buchner were the most productive of this precocious bunch.

Can Notre Dame enhance its playoff chances with an impressive outing? They did what they could, but we won’t know the answer until next week.

Will someone please pull the plug on Michigan? Someone will before this season is over. Tom Brady doesn’t play for them anymore.

Tuesday’s rankings should give us an indication as the where Notre Dame stands with regard to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will play Baylor in the Big-12 championship and could leap past the Irish with an impressive win. The SEC, Big-10 and AAC championship games will all have a bearing on whether Notre Dame can sneak into the final four. We’ll find out then if 11-1 is good enough.

15 thoughts on “Irish Air Raid Beats Stanford

  1. Irish are very lucky to be 11-1 given the early season almost losses to FSU, Toledo.

    I’d much rather face Georgia in the playoff than OSU on new years day.

    Irish just might pull the upset.

    I expect ND to be #4 after the conference championships next Saturday and face Georgia in playoffs
    BK will get one more chance to get his 1st big post season win in 12 years @ ND!! (12th x may be the charm)

  2. Fred A Karam Jr says:

    As much as I think there is ND bias out there, and there is, without a conference championship game we can’t afford a loss. The committee puts so much emphasis on being in a conference we will get overlooked more often than not. Until they expand the playoffs ND is going to suffer as being an independent, it’s just a fact. We start next season at OSU, a very tall task with an inexperienced, yet talented quarterback in Buchner. If we lose that game we are already in a hole that will be difficult to overcome. College football is resistant change a 4 team playoff, which is not a true playoff. Those at the top don’t want change because they have a stranglehold on talent and their respective conferences. Being independent was good for ND, but the powers in charge will continue to hold that against the Irish.

  3. Thanks for working late, John! I loved watching the Irish having fun, which is a huge contrast to some years past when it looked like Coach Kelly was going to make his quarterbacks cry. Buchner showed his tremendous upside and impressive speed, and the announcers kept talking about ‘next year’ for the Irish. I felt grateful the Cardinal receivers seemed so surprised by the football, or the night would have felt very different. Highlights on and John’s analysis on NDNation make waking up 11-1 feel like Thanksgiving!
    I’m leaving town next weekend when the Wolverine fans flock in. My buddies got tear gassed at Ann Arbor in 1989, but Indy isn’t nearly as quick to shut down a party. Or a riot.

    • Absolutely some of the best, and I would add balanced, reporting on the Irish on the web. We are all the beneficiaries of this column. Thanks John and Happy Holidays.

  4. Thank you John for the must-read columns every week. They are a great window into how the games themselves will unfold and the pre-game question sets are always keys to the game.

  5. Other options: 1) Play Cincinnati again as a do-over game.

    2) Withdraw from CFP from consideration and play Alabama on Jan. 1. Two reasons right off the bat: Money and the best opportunity in year to beat Alabama.

    3) Get lucky with the CFP and get creamed by Georgia as the #4 team, again.

  6. This season turned out far better than I thought especially after the first couple games. I am still not sure how good this team really is. The competition has been weak the last few games so it is hard to know whether a good quarterback could pick the secondary apart. Stanford QB was either off target or had receiver drops most of the time.

    Hopefully the Irish will make the playoff. I really don’t want to see them play Pitt or Wake Forest (Ugh!).

    Thanks for all the work you do and thanks another fine season of Notre Dame coverage.

  7. A 11-1 season is great especially since I feared they were staring down the barrel of an 8-4 season after their very rough start. Hopefully Foskey will return next year. It’s doubtful Hamilton will but if they both did ND could have perhaps their best defense in decades.

    The offense should be better next year with a more veteran O-Line and a dynamic quarterback in Tyler Bucher who looks to have game changing capabilities and something ND hasn’t had in Kelly’s tenure with the exception of Deshone Kizer.

  8. Finished up strong. If we finish 5th, I’m going to wonder what could’ve been as this is clearly the weakest playoff group in years. Because of that, I’m expecting another insane week of upsets and nailbitters.

    My conference title predictions:
    Baylor 34-32 3ot
    Cincy 35-24
    Georgia 27-16
    Iowa 20-19


  9. The Irish strength of schedule will keep them from getting into the playoffs unless Baylor beats Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State if they win out will have a much more difficult schedule even though they lost to a worse team than ND lost to. Our playoff chances will be limited by the fact that our schedule was so easy. Overall it was a great year and Kelly did a great job beating mediocre teams. I mean that as a compliment. The loss to Cincinnati was a classic Kelly choke job. I think our big problem when we play a really competitive team is going to come down to Coan being completely immobile and unable to find a second option. With an up-tempo offense and him throwing quickly he has done really well but against teams that will press him and blitz him hard I’m really worried and I think Buckner will need to play a huge role. I’m disappointed that they didn’t let him throw more in the last two games because I think they will need him in the bowl game.

  10. Look at the 2021 preseason rankings, worthless as they usually are and look at ND now.
    Sure the schedule was weak, applied ex post facto.
    NC, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, USC. Pretty scary on paper. All top 25 preseason.
    I still don’t see how we’re going to overcome CONFERENCE bias if the Bearcats make it into the top 4.
    Still surpassed expectations and a team that really grew into something. The Defense looks great.
    Lots to play for, just hope the final matchup is a top 10 team because tomato can bowls don’t mean anything.
    Thanks for the coverage this season.

    • While there may be some conference bias in the playoff selection process, I don’t believe ND fans can point to that as the reason the Irish didn’t make the final four (assuming they indeed don’t make it). With playoff regulars Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State already or likely to have two losses, this is a year that would certainly have room for a 11-1 Irish team. Hell, an undefeated Cincinnati team would still be left out in a normal year.

      The problem with ND is the schedule and lack of quality wins. This is especially true in November when the committee needs a data point to confirm they are choosing the right teams. Since it’s hard to know how good the Irish really are at this stage, it may seem safer for them to take a team from the weak Big-12 or the weaker AAC.