Stanford-Notre Dame Preview
One of the nation’s elite quarterbacks has led Stanford to three
consecutive blowout victories, and the Cardinal will have extra
motivation to continue their surge Saturday in South Bend.
It has been 18 years since Stanford’s last win at Notre Dame and
even longer since its most recent 4-0 start, but Andrew Luck and
the No. 16 Cardinal will look to end both droughts while sending
the Fighting Irish to a third consecutive defeat.
Luck has been earning some Heisman Trophy buzz by throwing 10
touchdown passes without an interception to spark Stanford’s early
rise, which featured a 68-24 win over Wake Forest last Saturday
The sophomore went 17 for 23 for 207 yards and four touchdowns,
adding a 52-yard TD run in what coach Jim Harbaugh called a
“flawless” performance as the Cardinal (3-0) posted their highest
point total since 1968.
“We’re coming along nicely,” Luck said. “But I don’t think
anybody is satisfied. This program hasn’t been on a high too long.
Guys have been around here when it’s not been on a high, me
included. We know that tides can change like that.”
A glance at Stanford’s recent history should be humbling enough.
No Cardinal team has begun a season with four wins since 1986, and
Stanford’s ranking is the school’s highest at this point in a
season since 1972.
The Cardinal have also struggled against Notre Dame, which had
won seven straight in the series before a 45-38 loss at Palo Alto
on Nov. 28. In order to win back-to-back meetings with the Irish
for the first time in school history, Stanford must snap a
seven-game losing streak in South Bend that dates to 1992.
With an offense that ranks third nationally with 51.7 points per
game, the Cardinal may be well equipped. They rolled up 303 yards
on 38 carries against Wake Forest, using eight rushers after losing
Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart to graduation last year.
“That Stanford team is very special,” Demon Deacons coach Jim
Grobe said. “It’s a good football team, well coached. … They have
such a strong running game and a special quarterback who makes all
Stanford’s big point totals have overshadowed the team’s stingy
defense, which shut out UCLA in its lone road game and has allowed
an FBS-low 90.0 passing yards per game.
Notre Dame had no problem throwing against the Cardinal last
year, with Jimmy Clausen racking up 340 yards and five touchdowns.
Stanford, though, overcame a late deficit to deny the Irish a
winning season and end the tenure of coach Charlie Weis.
It hasn’t taken new coach Brian Kelly long to encounter more
adversity in the form of consecutive last-minute losses to Michigan
and Michigan State.
After the Wolverines scored with 27 seconds left to earn a 28-24
win at Notre Dame on Sept. 11, the Spartans used a fake field goal
in overtime to claim a 34-31 win over the Irish (1-2) last
“Guys are upset, obviously,” quarterback Dayne Crist said. “It’s
a tough loss and guys are hurt by that, but we’ll give it time to
get out of our systems.”
Narrow defeats are nothing new for Notre Dame, which has dropped
six of seven with each loss coming by seven points or fewer.
While Crist has been a bright spot after replacing Clausen,
throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State,
the Irish have struggled defensively, allowing 443.7 yards per game
to rank 102nd nationally.
That has increased the pressure on Kelly. The coach led
Cincinnati to the Sugar Bowl last year but left in hopes of
resurrecting the storied Notre Dame program, which is 17-23 since
the start of the 2007 season.
“I don’t think that you have any head coaching position, whether
it’s Notre Dame or anywhere else, and sit around and worrying about
what those people think,” Kelly said. “You’re going to work every
day, trying to get your football team to be the best they can