(UHND.com) — He limped off the field multiple times last, but managed to hobble back to the huddle each time and when the game was on the line, senior Maurice Stovall made the biggest catch of his up and down career to put the Irish in striking distance of the game winning score.
Saturday was a fitting end to the Philadelphia native’s final regular season as it show cased the skill and toughness that have turned the 6’5” wide out from a late round reach to a certain first day draft pick come April.
Stovall’s career has been well documented in a season where he turned his raw talent into a highlight reel of catches and blocks. Along the way he’s had a 4 touchdown game, five 100 yard performances, and a 200 yard game, but he saved his best performance for Saturday.
Maurice needed 113 yards against the Cardinal this weekend to become the 4th Notre Dame wide receiver to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in a single season. His first catch went for 42 yards and it appeared he was well on his way, but he came limping off the field in the 2nd quarter.
Stovall would gut it out however and hobbled around on one good leg most of the second half to come up with a 3rd quarter touchdown catch, his 18th career and 11th on the season, and a leaping 21 yard catch despite being interfered with to set up Notre Dame with a first and goal.
That single play is the perfect example of how far Stovall has come this season. Often accused of being “soft” and not using his body the past three years by the Notre Dame faithful as well as the media, Stovall finally started to go up and take the ball out of the air this year instead of waiting for it.
Whether it was his 1 handed touchdown against Navy or jump ball touchdown against Tennessee, Stovall used his 6’5” frame and athleticism to snare balls away from under-matched defensive backs all year and he did it again with TJ Rushing on his back Saturday.
Rushing claimed offensive pass interference, but the replays showed the Rushing was on Stovall’s back. Stovall however managed to keep his body in control and grabbed the ball in the air for the first down.
His highlight reel of catches and touchdowns however this year is not the only area the 20 year old has improved his game this year however. Stovall’s blocking has been praised by the coaching staff and has truly made him a complete receiver this year.
He finishes the regular season with 60 catches for 1,021 yards, and 11 touchdowns. The 11 touchdowns ties Derrick Mayes’ former record for touchdowns in a season which fellow wide receiver Jeff Samardzija broke this year with 15. Coming into this season, Stovall had 61 catches for 1,046 yards and 7 touchdowns in his career.
Stovall will have one more game to impress Irish fans and NFL Scouts, but after Saturday there is not much left for him to prove. No offensive player had received as much criticism coming into this year which makes Big Mo’s stellar senior campaign all that much more special.