Photo by © Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Football

Irish Wear Out Cardinal

November 30, 2019

Serendipity, meet opportunity.

Days before Saturday’s regular-season finale at Stanford, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made clear the Fighting Irish coaching staff had saved a final game of action for Isaiah Foskey.

Notre Dame’s freshman defensive end, who grew up in Antioch, California, some 70 miles from the Stanford campus, made the play that turned around the Irish’s fortune in this nearly century-old rivalry.

Foskey blocked Cardinal punter Ryan Sanborn’s boot inside the Stanford 10, Justin Ademilola recovered at the 1-yard line, and three long plays later, Ian Book found Tommy Tremble for a touchdown.

The Irish still trailed, 17-14, at the time, but they claimed all of the momentum. A mere 101 seconds later, Book fired deep down the left sideline to hit Chase Claypool in the corner of the end zone, and Notre Dame captured a 21-17 lead, which they would never relinquish.

Scoring 31 unanswered points and polishing off an unblemished, 5-0 November, the No. 16 Irish routed the host Cardinal, 45-24, for their first win on The Farm since 2007. It is the first time Notre Dame has had three straight seasons of double-digit wins since 1991-93.

“Our kids wanted to get to 10 wins, obviously, for a third consecutive year,” said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on Fox’s postgame. “Not many programs can say that. It was an internal goal for us. To be able to come back and win five in November, to be able to do that, coming on the road, it’s something our kids prepared for. Really, really happy for them.”

Kelly also pointed to the Notre Dame standard in the program’s best three-year run in almost three decades.

“It’s always been, for us, playing for championships,” he said. “You have to be able to do that at a place like Notre Dame. It’s just that standard that’s been set at Notre Dame.

“We’re going to do that. We don’t know where we’re going to go from here (for a bowl), but these kids get one more game.”

Book initially got Notre Dame (10-2) on the board and evened the score at 7 when he connected with tailback Tony Jones Jr. on perhaps the Irish’s most deftly executed screen pass of the season. Jones patiently allowed his blockers to set up, and he zig-zagged untouched into the end zone.

With no bowl to play for and slogging through a season besieged by injuries, Stanford nonetheless parried its visitors early with an opening-drive touchdown and an eventual 10-point lead, 17-7 --- just the third time this season the Irish had trailed by double digits.

Davis Mills, who hit eight of his first nine passes, finished the first half with 29 pass attempts, hitting 19 of them for 196 yards and scoring tosses to Michael Wilson and Brycen Tremayne.

Notre Dame, courtesy of the biggest play of Foskey’s young career, finally awakened. It carried over into the second half.

After the Irish defense allowed Stanford to score on three of first four possessions, it then proceeded to force seven straight punts, a muffed punt on an eighth possession and --- a quartet of three-and-outs during that game-defining stretch. Brycen Tremayne muffed the punt, and long snapper John Shannon hustled downfield for the recovery.

Book would find Claypool again on his oft-utilized drag route across the width of the field inside the 10, and he likewise scampered into the end zone untouched.

After a Jonathan Doerer field goal from 42 yards boosted the edge to 31-17, C’Bo Flemister brutalized the exhausted Stanford defense near the end of the third quarter and on a series of carries in the fourth quarter. After Braden Lenzy burned the Cardinal defense to the 1, Flemister pounded into the end zone from a yard out to cap the Irish’s offensive scoring.

With Notre Dame in soft defensive sets and substituting in spots, Stanford tacked on a Cameron Scarlett scoring run for the game’s final tally.

That wasn’t enough for the Cardinal, which attempted an onside kick and then called timeouts in the waning moments to get back the ball. Notre Dame had an answer. Khalid Kareem pounced on a fumble forced by Ade Ogundeji’s sack-and-strip play in the end zone.

Now, while many coaches, including Kelly, stay out on the road recruiting for the Irish with the early signing day just weeks away, Notre Dame awaits its postseason fate.

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