In their last game of the 2011 regular season, the Irish offense failed to perform for most of the 60 minutes of the game and Notre Dame dropped their fourth loss of the season this time at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal, 28-14.
After the first half of play, the Irish only had 88 total yards of offense. Notre Dame couldn’t run the ball against one of the best defenses against the run in the country and they had troubles throwing the ball through the air as well. Tommy Rees had two turnovers by himself, which included a fumble inside Stanford’s 25 yard line and then an interception right before halftime that led to another Cardinal touchdown.
With his team down 21 points at the half, Irish head coach Brian Kelly decided to change quarterback’s by switching from Rees to sophomore Andrew Hendrix. Hendrix played a few plays during the first half when Rees went down with a back injury, but he would return to the bench after Rees recovered.
The Irish were held scoreless on their first drive in the second half, but Hendrix got the offense moving on the next possession. The young QB would throw complete three passes on the drive, which included the series-ending touchdown pass to Michael Floyd. Hendrix also had a nice 13-yard run.
Hendrix would put another nice looking drive together when the game was way in hand late in the fourth quarter. He would throw three straight completions and then ran the ball for two yards in for a score. With the bowl game now on the horizon, there appears to be a QB controversy brewing in South Bend.
Even though the box score might not show it, the Irish defense kept the road team in it when the offense was struggling moving the ball and putting the points on the scoreboard. The defense had a shaky first half, but was brilliant during the second half except for the last Stanford scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Luck was his usual self. The future first overall pick in the NFL Draft and Heisman hopeful completed 19 of his 30 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns. Luck has had better nights over the course of his great career at Stanford, but he certainly helped his credentials to winning his first Heisman trophy.
The Cardinal run attack was effective as well. On 42 carries, the home team ran for just under 200 yards on the ground. Like he has all season long, Stepfan Taylor led the way for his team. He ran for 117 yards on 19 carries. Tyler Gaffney quietly was having a nice night before he went down with injury.
After a disappointing finish to the regular season, the Irish will now wait to see which bowl game they will be playing in. Most believe that Notre Dame will be playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, which takes place a few days after Christmas. We should find out shortly.