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Notre Dame Football

21 Unanswered Points Doom Irish In Palo Alto

November 26, 2017
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It was a fourth quarter to forget for the Irish, surrendering 21 unanswered points to the Cardinals. Stanford used the fourth quarter rally to down Notre Dame 38-20. 

"Each game that we've lost this year, we've turned the football over against quality opposition, against good football teams," stated Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. "Stanford is clearly a good football team. Did that against Miami, did that against Georgia. You can't turn the football over against really good football teams. Then you got to make some plays. We got to coach better. Got to play better, got to coach better. Stanford made the plays when they needed to."

The Cardinals were 2-11 on third down, but one specific third down conversion was the turning point early in the fourth quarter. 3rd and 8 and Cardinal quarterback KJ Costello dropped back and bulleted a perfect pass to Kaden Smith for the 19-yard score. The roommate to roommate connection was the game changer.

What a way to open the half! After starting the opening drive of the second half from the 25-yard line, Wimbush hit Equanimeous St. Brown on a ten yard crossing route and St. Brown did the rest sprinting down the left side line for the rest, resulting in a 75-yard touchdown to give the Irish a 17-14 lead 12 seconds into the third quarter.

Stanford looked to answer, and started their first drive of the second half with some explosiveness. Sparked by back to back first downs, coming from an 11-yard strike from Costello to Parkinson and then a 31-yard dash by Heisman hopeful Bryce Love, the Cardinals set themselves up for a successful drive. After a pass interference call on a shot to the end zone, Stanford had possession at the Irish 7. The Notre Dame defense stood tough three consecutive plays forcing the Cardinals to settle for a field goal that tied the game at 17 all with 10:23 left in the third quarter. 

With the game tied at 17, Notre Dame had a great opportunity to take a one-possession lead. The Irish started strong, pounding the rock for three consecutive first downs on the ground, until an offensive pass interference call stalled the drive forcing a punt. Tyler Newsome did a great job pinning the Cardinals at their own one-yard line.

99 yards turned out to be too tall of a task for the Cardinals. After a fumbled snap on the first play of the drive, followed by six yards on the ground by Bryce Love and Trenton Speights, the Cardinals were forced to punt. 

Finke sets up the Irish with a short field. After a 53 yard punt by Dan Bailey down to the Irish 40, Chris Finke returned the ball 41 yards into Cardinal territory to the 19-yard line. Unfortunately the Irish couldn’t capitalize on the amazing opportunity. Two straight penalties put Notre Dame into a hole. Stepherson ran hard getting 10 yards back after the penalties, but after two straight rushes going for negative yardage, they were forced to settle for a field goal. Justin Yoon put the Irish up three 20-17 with 1:23 left in the third. 

"First of all, we do a great job with the punt," stated Kelly. "Down it on the one. Great defensive transition. Got a great punt return. Then two silly mistakes with the procedure personalities. Then settle for a field goal. We've been really good all year about taking those possessions and turning them into touchdowns."

Starting their drive at their own 21-yard line in field position they could do something with the Cardinals took advantage. Starting the drive in rhythm with three quick first downs, Costello hit Stewart on an 11-yard strike, Love bolted through a hole up the middle for 14 yards along with 15 more yards on a facemask call, and two plays later Love got loose again for 10 more yards. Despite the hot start, the Notre Dame defense forced a third down and eight when Nyles Morgan sprinted through the offensive line and tackled Kenton Speights for a two-yard loss. This didn’t phase a Cardinal offense that was on a mission. Stanford converted their first third down conversion when Costello hit his roommate Kaden Smith for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals a 24-20 lead with 13:46 left in the game. 

Looking to answer the Irish started their drive from the 25-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Wimbush threw a pass he would like to have back. Forcing a throw into Smythe, the pass was intercepted. This gave Stanford a great opportunity to extend their lead. Starting their drive from the 29 yard-line in Irish territory, it didn’t take long for the Cardinals to get into the end zone. After a 14 yard end around by Love to get the drive started, two plays later Costello threw his fourth touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz to give them a 31-20 lead with 12:21 left in the game. 

"He knows in those kinds of situations where he's working the ball into the short field that he's got a progression," Kelly said of the Wimbush interception. "He's got to take care of the football. He knows where he needs to be with the football in those situations."

Bad went to worse for the Irish on the kickoff, CJ Sanders fumbled giving the Cardinals a prime chance to go up three possessions, and that is what they did. The drive started from the 18-yard line in Irish territory and on first down it looked like the Irish defense was going to put up a fight when Jonathon Bonner sacked Costello, but on the next play Love showed off his vision following his lineman for an 8 yard gain. This run was followed by a hard-fought 10-yard run by the Love down to the three and the next play Scarlett capped the four-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run to give the Cardinals a 38-20 lead with 10:10 left in the game.

After two unforgettable possessions for the Irish, they looked to put it behind them and get back into the end zone. Driving down the field sparked by an 11 yard run by Ian Book on a 4th and 5 after Wimbush got sacked the previous play forcing him to take a few plays off. When Wimbush was on the sideline, Book looked sharp on top of the 4th down run he converted another first down the next play hitting St. Brown on a crossing route for 12 yards. After the conversion, Wimbush made his way back onto the field converting two more first down hitting Claypool for an 11-yard strike and rushing for a 10-yard scamper, but unfortunately under threw his intended receiver in the end zone two plays later resulting in an interception by Frank Buncom. 

The next drive for the Cardinals started from the 25-yard line. Keeping the ball on the ground Stanford was forced to punt the ball back to the Irish after five play drive came to a halt after Trevor Speights started the drive with a powerful 13-yard run. A booming punt by Jake Bailey gave the Irish possession at the 40-yard line. The Irish gave quite the effort on their last drive of the game. Wimbush completed a 20-yard strike to Miles Boykin, a 16-yard completion to Stepherson and almost completed a garbage time score to Claypool on a 17-yard strike, but it was reversed by officials. 

Wimbush completed just 11 of his 28 attempts, but threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 61 yards. Josh Adams was neutralized rushing 20 times for just 49 yards. Two Irish receivers went for over 100 yards though. St. Brown caught five passes for 111 yards, and a touchdown and Stepherson caught three passes for 112 yards and a score. This was back to back games Stepherson had over 100 receiving yards. Stanford signal-caller had a great night going 14-for-22 for 176 yards and four touchdowns. Heisman hopeful got loose in the second half and finished with 125-yard on 20 attempts. 

The Cardinal received the opening kickoff and began their first drive at their own 25-yard line. A quick 12-yard run by Love got the Cardinal up to midfield as they got into a rhythm on their first drive of the night. The momentum stopped abruptly after the Irish forced two straight incompletions. After the punt, the Irish took over at their own 22-yard line.

After a few runs by Adams, Wimbush took it himself to pick up a first down on third down to keep the drive alive. The first down run by Wimbush was all the drive could muster as the Irish were forced into a punt. The Cardinal took over at their own 23-yard line. The Irish defense rose to the occasion and forced the Cardinal into a three and out. The Irish took over at their own 15-yard line after a 55-yard punt with 7:46 to play in the first quarter.

After a completion to Nic Weishar, Wimbush tried but failed to run for a first down as the Irish were forced into another three and out. The Cardinal took over at their own 39-yard line after a decent punt return. After a sack by Jerry Tillery the Irish defense held strong once again, forcing the Cardinal into their third punt of the quarter. The Irish took over at their own 13-yard line with 4:19 left in the quarter.

After a bad throw by Wimbush, he found Stepherson on a crossing route who went all the way into the end zone for an 83-yard score. The Irish took a 7-0 lead after the extra point by Justin Yoon. After a decent return, the Cardinal started the ensuing drive at their own 29-yard line. A nice throw by Costello to Arcega-Whiteside got the Cardinal up to midfield as they finally got into a rhythm against the Irish defense. A pass interference penalty against the Irish kept the drive alive for the Cardinal.

On the very next play, Costello found an open Trenton Irwin for a 29-yard touchdown to tie the game with just 43 seconds left in the quarter. The Irish began their next drive at their own 25-yard line trying to answer the Cardinal score. The first quarter ended with the Irish trying to convert a key third down. 

Wimbush was sacked which forced the Irish into yet another three and out, giving the Cardinal the ball back trying to extend their lead. They took over after the punt at their own 45-yard line. A big throw and catch on third down got the Cardinal over midfield as Costello found his tight end Kaden Smith for a 20-yard gain. Smith had his number called once gain, getting the Cardinal into the red zone for the first time in the game. The Cardinal punched it in two plays later as Costello found Arcega-Whiteside in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown to give the Cardinal a 14-7 lead with 11:29 left in the half. 

The Irish took over at their own 13-yard line to start their next drive. The Irish were stopped cold as they went three and out again as Adams continued to have a rough half. After a nice punt return, the Cardinal began their next drive at their own 45-yard line. A keeper by Costello got the Cardinal over midfield but was short of the first down, and a penalty backed them up. A good stop by the Irish forced the Cardinal into another three and out. 

The Irish took over after the punt at their own ten-yard line with just 7:10 to play before the half. A first down pass on third down got the chains moving for the Irish as Wimbush found a streaking St. Brown. Another completion to Stepherson got the Irish over midfield as they got into an offensive rhythm. A designed quarterback run by Wimbush got the Irish into the red zone for the first time in the game. The drive stalled however and the Irish settled for a 38-yard field goal by Yoon to cut the lead to 14-10 with 2:36 remaining in the half. 

The Cardinals began their next drive at their own 24-yard line. They got up to midfield thanks to a nice gain by Love. The drive stalled as the Irish defense came up huge and they were able to force a punt. The Irish took over at their own 25-yard line after a touchback. The Irish had nothing doing on the drive and gave the ball back to the Cardinal to close out the half.

Wimbush finished the half just 7 for 14 for 127 yards and the long touchdown to Stepherson. Wimbush was also the leading rusher with seven carries for 37 yards. St. Brown was the leading receiver with three receptions for 24 yards. Meanwhile, Costello was 9 of 14 for 121 yards and two scores for the Cardinal. Love was the rushing leader but was held to just 31 yards. Arcega-Whiteside was the leading receiver with four catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. 

 
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