(Saturday, September 25th)
Final Score: (16) Stanford 37, Notre Dame 14
South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - Nate Whitaker connected on all five of his field goal attempts and two-way player Owen Marecic scored on consecutive plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, as No. 16 Stanford cruised past offense-starved Notre Dame, 37-14.
Andrew Luck threw for 238 yards on 19-of-32 throws with a touchdown toss to Coby Fleener for the Cardinal (4-0), who snapped their seven-game skid at Notre Dame Stadium and are off to their best start since 1986.
Luck also threw his first two interceptions on the year but helped Stanford convert 11-of-16 third down tries.
Stepfan Taylor amassed 139 yards from scrimmage in the convincing win.
"It's a big win for us. We just look at every game like it's a championship game. In order to win the championship, you got to win your next ballgame...Now next week is the big game...Got to have a great week of preparation to get ready next week for Oregon," Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh said of next week's showdown with the fifth-ranked Ducks.
Dayne Crist completed just 25-of-44 throws for 304 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Notre Dame (1-3), which was coming off last-second defeats at the hands of Michigan and Michigan State, the latter coming in overtime.
The Fighting Irish have now lost 11 straight games to top-20 opponents.
The Irish, down 19-6, failed to capitalize on Luck's interception off a tipped pass midway through the third, then were pinned at their own two-yard line following Stanford's first -- and only -- punt of the game late in the frame.
After moving the ball to midfield, Notre Dame stared at a 4th-and-1 with 13 1/2 minutes to go in the contest. First-year head coach Brian Kelly opted to go for the first down, and a handoff to Jonas Gray was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Taylor's 23-yard reception on 3rd-and-7 on the ensuing drive put Stanford near the red zone, and on the eighth consecutive run play, Marecic dove over the goal line for the game-sealing TD with 7:58 remaining.
"They deserved to win today," Kelly said of Stanford. "If you break it down, it's 19-6, fourth down and a foot and a half from midfield and we can't convert. Then [3rd-and-7] we have a missed assignment where they pick up a first down. In a hard fought game, those are the key plays that turned the game eventually to where it finished."
Zach Ertz caught a two-point conversion toss from Luck, and Marecic, who starts at fullback and linebacker, stepped in front of Crist's next pass and took it back 20 yards for the score, a mere 13 seconds after his TD run.
Crist threw a meaningless three-yard TD to Theo Riddick with six minutes left, and Whitaker capped the scoring with a 29-yard field goal.
Notre Dame punted in Cardinal territory early in the first quarter, but Doug Baldwin fumbled the kick at his own 21. The Irish recovered and eventually settled for a 22-yard David Ruffer field goal at the 8:11 mark.
Stanford answered with a 10-play, 79-yard drive that ended with Fleener hauling in a 16-yard lob from Luck in the end zone.
Crist lost a fumble on the next play from scrimmage, leading to a 24-yard Whitaker field goal with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter.
Ruffer and Whitaker traded 40 and 41-yard field goals, respectively, in the second, and Whitaker booted a 36-yarder just before halftime for a 10-point lead.
Notre Dame's defense continued to bend but not break starting the second half, forcing Whitaker to be called in again for a 33-yard kick to culminate a 10- play, 49-yard drive.
Stanford last won at Notre Dame Stadium in 1992. The Cardinal defeated the Irish last year, 45-38, and completed its first ever back-to-back victories over the storied program..Taylor gained 108 yards on 28 carries and 31 yards on two receptions...Fleener had 57 yards on four grabs...Stanford held the ball for nearly 13 more minutes...Armando Allen led the Irish with 49 yards on 15 carries...Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph came in with 21 receptions over the first three games but was held to one catch for one yard in the loss...Michael Floyd had a game-high eight catches for 110 yards for Notre Dame, which was has not beaten a top-20 opponent since dropping No. 19 Penn State, 41-17 on Sept. 9, 2006.
09/25 22:09:24 ET