Notre Dame started slowly, falling behind by 17-7 in the first twenty minutes of the game. The team looked lethargic until freshman Isaiah Foskey blocked a punt to ignite the Irish and propel them to a 45-24 victory on Saturday. The win elevated Notre Dame to 10-2 on the season while the Cardinal dropped to 4-8.
Foskey’s block was recovered by the Irish at the Stanford one yard line. A subsequent Ian Book scoring pass to Tommy Tremble cut the deficit to 17-14 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter. Notre Dame’s offense and defense took control at that point, as Book added a touchdown pass to Chase Claypool to take the lead before halftime. Meanwhile, the defense regrouped to shut down the Cardinal until two minutes remained in the game and the outcome had long been decided.
Stanford quarterback Davis Mills came out firing for the inspired hosts, hitting Brycen Tremayne and Michael Wilson with scoring strikes sandwiched around a Ryan Sanborn field goal. Notre Dame scored on its opening drive to tie the game at 7-7 as Book connected with Tony Jones, but the Irish fell into a funk before Foskey woke them up.
With Notre Dame nursing a 21-17 advantage, the third quarter settled into a punt-fest. Later in the period, Book hit Braden Lenzy for 43 yards and scrambled for 26 more before finding Claypool for an eight yard touchdown and a 28-17 lead at the 3:10 mark. Stanford fumbled a punt moments later, and Jonathan Doerer tacked on a field goal as the game moved to the fourth period.
The Irish went back to the running game, which produced a long, time-consuming scoring march. Jafar Armstrong pitched in with a 28-yard run before C’Bo Flemister crashed into the end zone from a yard out. Notre Dame now led by 38-17 with five minutes left.
A Cameron Scarlett run finally broke Stanford’s scoring drought a few minutes later to make the margin appear more respectable, but the Irish added a defensive touchdown in the closing moments. Ade Ogundeji knocked the ball from Mills’ hand in the Stanford end zone, and senior Khalid Kareem pounced on it for his first career touchdown and the 45-24 final score.
Book finished 17 of 30 for 255 yards and four touchdowns, while Mills was 28 of 46 for 276 yards and two scores. Mills started the game by hitting his first seven passes and was 12 of 17 for 140 yards as the Cardinal built its ten point advantage. He cooled off considerably once the Irish pass rush kicked in and the coverage tightened up. Notre Dame also outrushed Stanford by 190-118.
Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions:
Can Stanford’s patchwork offensive line handle the depleted Irish defensive front? Not for long. The Irish dominated as the afternoon wore on.
Which team will generate the most productive running game? Outside of a few surprising scrambles by Mills, the Cardinal could not do much on the ground. Notre Dame shared the wealth among several productive runners.
Can Notre Dame cause Mills completion rate to drop well below his average? Mills started fast by completing passes at 70% clip, but hit only 55% after Foskey’s punt block.
Will Book be able to complete passes despite adverse weather conditions? He threw a few balls that were knocked down at the line and overthrew a couple of others, but four touchdowns is still a good day’s work.
Which special teams be able to tilt the outcome in their favor? The Irish special teams blocked a punt and recovered a fumble, leading directly to 10 points.
Will Irish freshmen defenders Foskey and Kyle Hamilton make their presence felt? We’ve talked about Foskey, and Hamilton was excellent in pass coverage all day.
Can Notre Dame move up in the polls with an impressive performance? Maybe a couple of spots, but these ten wins lacked any golden moments.
The team must now wait a week for the conference championship games to sort before the various non-playoff bowl games select from the also-rans. In the mean time, we can all hope for something that sounds more glamorous that the Camping World Bowl.
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