Takeaways: Notre Dame Tramples Stanford In Ugly Close To Season
STANFORD – Stanford Stadium had been a hostile environment for opposing teams this decade. This season it became a place of celebration.
One week after Cal fans stormed the field to laud the end of a nine-year losing streak in the Big Game, it was No. 15 Notre Dame’s turn on Saturday. The Fighting Irish scored 31 straight points to beat Stanford 45-24, ending a five-game losing streak on The Farm and putting a fitting conclusion to a down year for the Cardinal (4-8).
Notre Dame (10-2) fans spilled onto the cold and wet field afterward, with many lingering until the public address announcer asked them to leave.
“I don’t worry about that. I mean, to the victors go the spoils,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “I plan on celebrating on a lot of other peoples’ fields next year.”
Opposing teams were 8-50 since 2010 at Stanford Stadium but went 4-3 this year.
Here were the key takeaways from Saturday:Special teams SNAFUS
For the most part, special teams had been a strong point for the Cardinal this season. But after blocking four kicks during the year, Stanford finally had one of its own blocked, and it became the turning point in the game.
With the Cardinal up 17-7 and five minutes left in the first half, Notre Dame blocked a punt and recovered at the 1. The Fighting Irish wound up scoring the next 31 points, including two touchdowns before the half to take a 21-17 lead into the break.
Michael Wilson also fumbled a punt at midfield in the third quarter, taking away an opportunity for the then-struggling offense to turn things around.
“Been coaching a long time,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “I don’t remember special teams really impacting a game so significantly in the way it did today.”By the Book
For the second straight season, El Dorado Hills native Ian Book threw for four TDs against Stanford. This time he completed 17 of 30 passes for 255 yards, had a key 26-yard scramble on fourth-and-2, and didn’t turn the ball over. He completed all three of his passes for 76 yards as Notre Dame needed just 21 seconds to score the go-ahead TD in a second-quarter two minute drill.
“As the game progressed, we let him out of the box a couple times and he’ll hurt you,” Shaw said.
Stanford QB Davis Mills completed 28 of 46 for 276 yards and two TDs, though his fumble in the Stanford end zone gave Notre Dame its final points.Another streak ends
Stanford had won 22 straight non-conference home games, including five straight against the Fighting Irish – a streak that dates back to the last time Notre Dame won at Stanford Stadium, in 2007. But this season saw a lot of Cardinal winning streaks broken – nine years with the Axe and 11 straight against UCLA, both of which ended at home. As a result, after 10 straight seasons with at least eight wins, the Cardinal saw that total halved this season.
“We obviously didn’t play to our standard, and that’s always tough,” senior linebacker Casey Toohill said.
Still, Shaw credited seniors like Toohill and running back Cameron Scarlett for their resolve.
“The love and appreciation I have for these fourth- and fifth-year seniors that have battled through so much and have had so much success and to fight through a year like this, never taking their foot off the gas pedal, I commend them,” Shaw said.
On his final carry, Scarlett recorded his 24th rushing touchdown, tied for 8th in program history.Returning pieces
Shaw said he expected three players to be freshmen all-Americans – punter Ryan Sanborn, cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly and left tackle Walter Rouse, who started the last 11 games in place of first-team all-conference tackle Walker Little and only allowed two sacks.
Little was among the many talented upperclassmen who suffered season-ending injuries, including quarterback K.J. Costello, cornerback Paulson Adebo and three starting offensive lineman.
“We were really a dangerous team coming into that first game, and it wasn’t in God’s plan for us all to stay healthy,” senior running back Cameron Scarlett said. “We weren’t really able to showcase everything we had. But next year I can tell that they’re going to be a dominant unit up front.”
Scarlett and Toohill were the only Stanford starters Saturday with no more eligibility left. The other 20 starters could all potentially return next season, though a few players such as junior tight end Colby Parkinson are expected to turn pro or graduate.