5 Things I Liked from Notre Dame v. Stanford

Cole Luke - Interception vs. Stanford
Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Cole Luke (36) intercepts a pass intended for Stanford Cardinal wide receiver Ty Montgomery (7) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Wow, what a game.  Notre Dame and Stanford’s heavy weight bout yesterday had a little bit of everything.  Turnovers, horrible weather, last minute drives, 4th down conversions, and so on and so on.  In the end though, the Irish prevailed 17-14 and sit at 5-0 with a great chance to be in the top 5 when the polls are released later today.

While it was an ugly game in many ways and there’s a ton of things for Brian Kelly and his staff to work on this week, there was a whole lot to like in their latest victory.  Here’s this week’s 5 Things I Liked column.

1. Notre Dame’s never say die attitude

This Notre Dame team might be extremely young across the board, but they have grown up in a hurry.  Last week the Irish overcame 5 turnovers and still won “on the road” by 16 points and never really had the issue in doubt.  This week was a whole other story with a top 15 team sporting the nation’s #1 ranked defense coming to town.  After taking their first lead of the game in the 4th quarter the Irish quickly surrendered that lead and found themselves trailing by four with just over three minutes to go in need of a touchdown drive.  And, on 4th and 11 with the game on the line, Everett Golson delivered the game winner in the back of the endzone.

Ben Koyack - Game Winning TD - Notre Dame vs. Stanford
Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Ben Koyack (18) catches a pass for a touchdown as Stanford Cardinal safety Jordan Richards (8) defends in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame did all of that despite: turning the ball over at the Stanford 1 yard line and missing out on points, turning the ball over inside their own red-zone to set up Stanford’s first score of the day, botching two field goal snaps on very makable attempts for Kyle Brundza, and dropping pass after pass in the driving rain.  Even despite all of that the Irish pulled off a win against a ranked opponent that was favored to beat them.  It’s hard not to love that kind of attitude and winning mentality even it’s is easy to not love the mistakes (more on those in another column).

2. Notre Dame’s deep wide receiving corps contributing all around.

After three games, Chris Brown was not much of a factor in the Notre Dame passing game, but the junior started to emerge last week and had another solid outing again yesterday.  Against Syracuse, Brown hauled in a team high 6 catches for 57 yards.  Brown paced the Irish again on Saturday with 4 catches this time for 60 yards and his first touchdown of the season.  That touchdown was also Notre Dame’s first score in the game and came after a number of the maddening mistakes that kept the Irish off the scoreboard for the nearly the first 27 minutes of the game.

It was also really easy to like Corey Robinson’s huge 3rd down conversion on Notre Dame’s game winning drive.  Robinson had a tough game with a few drops on a couple of laser beams from Golson, but the sophomore made one of the biggest catches of his career in the final minutes.  Slot receivers CJ Prosise and Amir Carlisle also both had solid outings and could have had even better games if Golson hit them in stride on a few occasions.  Will Fuller had his quietest game of the season yesterday, but the depth at the wide receiver position made up for it.

3. Defense, Defense, Defense

Stanford’s defense came in with all the headlines, but Notre Dame’s defense showed them up on Saturday.  The Irish held Stanford to just 205 yards of total offense and prevented them from even getting near the end-zone for much of the day.  Stanford’s first touchdown was set up by a Golson fumble inside the 20 yard line and their only real drive of the game was their 4th quarter touchdown that was set up by a great return by Ty Montgomery.

On the day, Notre Dame sacked Kevin Hogan 4 times, intercepted him twice, and harassed him in hurried throws and bad decisions all game long.  Notre Dame also kept Stanford’s running game in neutral all day with the Cardinal picking up just 47 yards on 32 carries.  Sack yardage is a factor there, but even if you remove the sack yards, Stanford ran the ball 28 times for 66 yards (2.36 yards per carry).

Not a bad day at the office for Jaylon Smith and the Irish defense.  Speaking of Smith, the sophomore had a career high 14 tackles including 2.5 for loss.  And speaking of tackles, man did the Irish defense tackle well against Stanford.  Two weeks ago the Irish were missing tackles left and right in the first half against Purdue.  That wasn’t the case at all this week.

4. Cole Luke’s Huge Game

Cole Luke deserves a special call out from the stellar defensive performance.  The sophomore corner (how times have I called out sophomores for great play already in this column?) had the best game of his career with both of Notre Dame’s interceptions of Hogan.  Luke’s first came on a badly thrown ball that Hogan was pressured into, but the second was a thing of beauty.  On Luke’s second interception he made a great play on the ball, undercut the wide receiver, and somehow managed to keep his hands under the ball and the ball off the turf as it rattled around a bit before he finally secured it.  Luke has been playing well to this point in the year, but on Saturday he was spectacular.

Notre Dame Stanford Highlights

5. The cojones of defensive coordinator of Brian VanGorder

I’ll admit it.  When the final play of the game started to unfold and I saw the all out blitz coming I yelled, ” I don’t like it!”.  I had flashbacks to those Michigan State games in the late 90’s when Bob Davie sent the house on 4th down and the Spartans hit a wide open receiver for a crushing, game winning touchdown.  Then the blitz got there and forced Hogan into his final terrible decision of the game – an intentional grounding penalty that put the nail in Stanford’s coffin.

It takes a lot of guts to call an all out blitz like that with the game on the line because you are essentially putting all the faith in your defense to get there because someone inevitably will be open.  VanGroder did it, put his faith in his defense, and the gamble paid huge dividends.  It’s a do or die type call that could have easily backfired on him, but it didn’t.  He stayed aggressive and his defense ended up sealing the victory.   Playing more conservatively doesn’t always work out either – just ask USC after their defense allowed Arizona State to complete a game winning late second Hail Mary with some form of prevent defense.   At least it looked like some form of defense.  It was hard to tell since ASU made it look so easy.


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  1. You’re right Russell but the tide is turning. Ha.
    SEC will beat up on each other and whoever is standing will be in the playoff. I live amongst them and hear how great the conference all the time.
    Still hearing about our title loss.

  2. Loved watching bama, a&m, ucla,ok, lose, guess it will take 3 or 4 losses for bama to exit top 10. Anyone who beats them is automatic top 5…..

  3. That was the craziest weekend of college football that I can remember….started with Oregon going down.

    We dodged a bullet. We have to play with less mistakes on Offense.

    Great win, nonetheless!


  4. I agree, Notre Dame better worry about North Carolina first, before they think about Florida State. As we saw yesterday in college football, a lot of strange things can and will happen.

  5. hearsay, jeff, and it’s all hearsay to me, is that all five players have
    had their hearings, and that they are owed a response in 5-7 days. That may or may not conclude it, as if the verdict is negative they are given a right to appeal. I share your frustration jeff

    Jenkins, and for reasons both biblical and human I decline to call him
    “Father Jenkins” is going to have to have this process reviewed.
    It is turgid, clogged. FWIW, he is the final arbiter in the appeals process, and I expect that he will side with the players, let the devil take the hindmost.

    Back some time, ago, Jenkins did a bad, bad thing, I can share my view with you privately by email. If you don’t care to give me a secret email address, I’ll share one with you.

    1. According to Mr. Webster, turgid (adj,)= pompous, pretentious, ponderous . . . the perfect descriptor for this ongoing (lack of) process.

      And if any appeal needs to occur with Jenkins as the final arbiter, his decision will reveal whether he was supportive of the turgid process, or not.

      What I’ll never get, and am certain will never be told, is why, upon completion of the investigation the week of the Rice game in late August did the “honor” committee not have hearings with the students for over 30 days?

      And if that delay was caused by the NCAA, then why not reveal that the delay is on them during this “frozen” period?

      Finalize this “turgid” fiasco once and FOR ALL.

  6. Does anyone know whats going on with the hearings on the suspended players? Is Russell the only one so far to have his hearing?

    1. The “News” is no news. They said the investigation has been concluded and that the University will not be discussing the outcome directly. More cloak and dagger strange Byzantine behavior, although probably legally correct. We will hear from Kelly on Tuesday during his press conference after the 5 have told him the results.

      1. I take that back, the hearings were concluded on Friday, but the verdicts have not been handed down, they will not be made public due to privacy and will come to us from the students, probably via Kelly.

  7. two more things I liked:

    Tommy Kraemer commits to ND!! The pipeline is being filled again!

    And I like Frank’s ebullient picks.

    Something’s happening here…….

    1. For those wondering:
      Full Definition of EBULLIENT

      : boiling, agitated
      : characterized by ebullience : having or showing liveliness and enthusiasm
      — ebul·lient·ly adverb

  8. Did anyone notice that BK and BVG talked during the time out that proceeded the all out blitz. I’m sure BVG told BK what he was going to do and BK put his stamp of approval on it. That’s great coaching/communicating if that’s what happened. GO IRISH!

  9. Another ugly victory, but good teams find a way to win. There was a sense all game that ND was the better team but mistakes kept the points off the board. Stanford’s blown coverage mistake finally put the winning points on the board. Luck of the Irish! Of course luck is nothing more than preparation meeting opportunity.

  10. My favorite part of the game was BVG’s blitz on the last play. Made all the sense in the world to me and don’t understand why it’s not done more. So far, the defense has been the biggest bright spot this year.

  11. Defense is playing well,however, let’s see how they do against a complete elite offense like Florida state.

    1. FSU is still two weeks away. I’m not gonna worry about them until next sunday….hopefully ND will still be without a loss at that time

    2. Don’t expect them to shut those guys down. Could really use Russell back for that one. We have to have a NO turnover performance.

    3. Prior to yesterday, I thought ND had a better chance of beating FSU than Stanford because I had a feeling Stanford’s defense was going to hold us under 20 points, whereas I don’t think FSU’s porous defense can do the same. Even with a turnover or two, I think we could win a shoot-out against the Noles. Our take-no-prisoners defense will limit their potent offense more than their impotent D will limit our on the rise O — something to the tune of 35-24 ND

      1. It was a great call. But one thing I didn’t understand was how we did not have 1 safety deep to PREVENT a deep ball. Stanford was about 3 feet from catching the deep ball Hogan threw on the drive and Stanford wins the game. I was at the game and that play was right in front of me. Scared the shit out of us.

      2. Could be that BVG realized that Hogan is a one read guy and stares down his primary option. So if the blitz comes in that situation, he probably wasnt worried about him making a clutch decision. Also, that gutsy call was probably unexpected.

  12. I like your last point on VanGorder. The dude’s got marbles and he’s obviously a great D coordinator. I love watching this defense attack rather than play that slow boring “bend, but don’t break” defense of Diaco. Looks like he obviously learned from Rex Ryan. Go Irish

    1. Toulmin, what are you smoking? NFL caliber opponent. Stanford is a good college team, but, it is not a professional caliber NFL team, C’mon. You’re stretching it a bit there my friend.

  13. A nice summary analysis, Frank. Agree totally, especially how BVG and his knockout crew (AKA Notre Dame Defense)are playing their butts off. This D is looking better than even 2012’s edition and definitely a reflection of the man running them. Just makes you love watching the D play.


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