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(Saturday, October 13th)
Final Score: (7) Notre Dame 20, (17) Stanford 13 (OT)
South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - Tommy Rees came off the bench to throw a 7- yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones in overtime, while the Notre Dame defense followed with a goal-line stand to keep the No. 7 Fighting Irish unbeaten with a thrilling 20-13 victory over 17th-ranked Stanford on a soggy Saturday in South Bend.
Rees also helped engineer a 12-play, 79-yard drive capped by Kyle Brindza's 22-yard field goal near the end of regulation after taking over midway through the series for injured starter Everett Golson. He finished 4-for-4 for 43 yards as the Irish moved to 6-0 for the first time since 2002.
Golson, who exited with a possible concussion on an illegal hit with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, went 12-of-24 for 141 yards and fired a 24-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Eifert that aided Notre Dame's comeback from a 10-3 halftime deficit.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for 102 yards on 28 carries for Stanford (4-2), but was stuffed four times from within the Irish 4-yard line on the Cardinal's only possession in overtime.
"Just a great college football game," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly remarked. "Great win. So proud of my football team the way they overcame adversity."
Josh Nunes threw for 125 yards on 12-of-25 passing and was intercepted twice in defeat.
Rees, a 12-game starter last season who was beaten out by the redshirt freshman Golson during summer practice, stepped in after his counterpart took a helmet-to-helmet blow from Usua Amanam with the Irish trailing by a 13-10 score. A defensive pass interference call on a deep attempt for Eifert shortly afterward moved Notre Dame into Brindza's range, and the sophomore came through with 20 seconds on the clock to force the extra session.
Notre Dame got the ball first in overtime, and Rees completed a 16-yard out to Theo Riddick on 3rd-and-8 before hitting Jones over the middle on the next play to give the Irish their first lead since the first quarter.
"We knew that we were going to get pressure from the field," said Kelly about the third-down conversion. "Tommy knew he had a one-on-one matchup, a very good one, and it's a practice thing where in practice we say, 'listen, just get some air to it'. You've got a wide receiver coming out of back, it's going to be a favorable matchup, put it up there and let's give it a shot. He did a nice job."
A pair of 13-yard runs by Nunes and Taylor appeared to put the Cardinal in prime position to tie, but the Notre Dame defense stood tall. With linebackers Manti Te'o and Carlos Calabrese leading the charge, the unit denied Taylor on four consecutive inside runs to maintain its season-long stinginess.
"We knew that they were going to run the ball," said Te'o. "We knew that basically No. 33 (Taylor) was going to have the ball, so everybody knew their job."
Notre Dame entered the contest second nationally in scoring defense and has now kept an opposing offense out of the end zone in four straight outings. Stanford's only touchdown on Saturday came on a fumble recovery by Chase Thomas after Ben Gardner's sack of Golson in the second quarter.
Thomas also accounted for the only touchdown of a first half dominated by Stanford's defense, but the 10-3 lead the Cardinal brought into intermission could have been far more if not for several missed opportunities.
Two of Stanford's first four drives ended in Nunes interceptions, the first coming by cornerback Bennett Jackson at the Notre Dame 1 and the second a badly overthrown ball to tight end Levine Toilolo that Matthias Farley returned 49 yards to give the Irish possession inside the Cardinal 20.
The Stanford defense would hold, however, and Notre Dame settled for Brindza's 29-yard field goal near the tail end of the first quarter for the game's first points.
Stanford marched inside the Irish 10 on the ensuing drive, highlighted by a 22-yard connection from Nunes to Zach Ertz on 3rd-and-9, but came up empty when Notre Dame lineman Stephon Tuitt got a piece of Jordan Williamson's 25- yard field goal try and the kick sailed wide left.
An exchange of punts backed Notre Dame near its own end zone, where Golson was blind-sided by Gardner while dropping back and Thomas pounced on the loose ball to put the Cardinal in front with 6:06 to go before halftime.
The Irish then had a failed scoring chance of their own, as an errant snap foiled a would-be 27-yard field goal attempt from Brindza with 1:34 left in the second quarter. Nunes promptly completed 4-of-5 passes to set the stage for a 48-yard kick from Williamson that provided Stanford with a 10-3 advantage at the midway point.
"We had a lot of opportunities out there," said Nunes. "I think we left them on the field, though."
It would remain a seven-point game through a third quarter in which the Cardinal didn't record a first down, but Notre Dame would finally get its offense untracked late in the period.
Golson found Riddick for a 23-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 to move the Irish within the Stanford 30, and Eifert outleaped two Cardinal defenders to haul in a 25- yard sideline strike shortly afterward to draw Notre Dame even less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Stanford answered with its longest drive of the game, a 16-play, 55-yard series that chewed up more than eight minutes and featured a pair of clutch completions from Nunes in 3rd-and-long situations.
It would result in only three points, however, after Farley and Danny Spond dropped Taylor for a 7-yard loss on third down from the 3-yard line. Williamson then delivered from 27 yards out to give the Cardinal a 13-10 edge with 6:12 left in regulation.
Stanford had a 10-game winning streak against non-conference opponents in the regular season halted and fell to 3-11 all-time at Notre Dame Stadium ... Prior to this contest, Notre Dame had not trailed at any point in any of its first five games ... The Irish are the only team in the nation to have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season and haven't yielded one in eight straight games dating back to the 2011 campaign ... Taylor recorded his 17th career 100-yard rushing effort, snapping a tie with Darrin Nelson for second place on the Cardinals' all-time list in that category.
10/14 02:39:42 ET
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