At long last, the Luck of the Irish favored the Fighting Irish.
On a rain-soaked afternoon in South Bend, Ind., Notre Dame’s vaunted defense stood pat on fourth-and-goal, denying Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor an overtime touchdown, keeping the Irish perfect amid a cloud of controversy. All told, the Irish overcame three turnovers and a shaky offensive showing to upend the Cardinal and win 20-13.
After a late field goal by Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza tied the game at 13-13, Notre Dame rode the steady arm of Tommy Rees, who entered after an Everett Golson injury, to take the lead after its first overtime possession. Stanford promptly answered with a drive of drive of its own, taking the ball down to the Notre Dame one-yard line for a do-or-die fourth down play. Taylor, the standout Cardinal running back, had his progress initially stopped by Irish defenders, but seemed to break the plane of the goal line with a gritty second effort. Replay officials agreed with the ruling on the field that the player’s forward progress had been stopped before Taylor’s final lunge; however, visual evidence seemed to indicate otherwise.
Despite the final ruling, Notre Dame’s defense again answered the call. Stanford’s lone touchdown came on a fumble recovery in the Irish end zone after Golson was blindsided, and the Cardinal were held to just 267 total yards.
Perhaps the biggest story for the Irish remains the calm and steady re-emergence of Rees. Once again, Rees entered at a critical spot and displayed veteran leadership and poise when Notre Dame needed it most: a game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter and an eventual game-winning drive in overtime. Rees finished 4-for-4 for 43 yards and a touchdown. Given Golson’s three turnovers and indecisiveness in the pocket, in addition to his injury, Rees seems well-positioned to regain his starting position sooner rather than later.
Notre Dame now finds itself at 6-0 for the first time since the Ty Willingham era. With a huge game on the horizon against Oklahoma in two weeks, the Irish hype machine is sure to kick into high gear.