LET IT REIGN! Notre Dame outsmarts Stanford with a legendary goal line stand in a rain storm to go 6-0! #GOIRISH –John O’Toole [my son’s post-game tweet]
I think our defense, led by the explosive “TNT” combination of Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III, and All-World Manti Te’o, would rather die than let someone run over them at the goal line. –Tom O’Toole [from my Thursday RANT article]
Any time a home team wins a game in overtime, there’s bound to be many storylines, and Notre Dame‘s 20-13 reign in the rain over Stanford was no different. But in the end, there was only one that mattered; the improbable goal line stand that kept the defense perfect against the run and “together as one” all at the same time.
The final sequence of Notre Dame’s dominant defense would not be made possible — or rendered necessary — without the many wonderful and horrible performances by the offense.
On the positive side there was the reemergence and continued emergence of receivers Tyler Eifert and TJ Jones, both four catches and clutch touchdown receptions. And once again there was quarterback Tommy Rees, now 3-for-3 in relief appearances with a 4-for-4, one TD passing display in the fourth quarter and overtime.
On the negative was a Notre Dame offensive line that allowed four sacks and seemingly countless illegal procedure penalties, three by Mike Golic Jr. alone.
And as usual, in the middle was starting QB Everett Golson with another exciting-but-erratic performance, complete with several dazzling throws and runs and three deflating fumbles, including one recovered in the end zone for Stanford’s only TD on this rainswept day.
And then there was the defense. They gave up only two field goals the entire game, the fourth game in a row that this unit has not allowed a touchdown. And going into OT, they still had not allowed a rushing TD all season. However, with Stanford standing first and goal at the four, and their standout running back Stephan Taylor and the Cardinal O-line licking their chops, they knew their quest for perfection would be severely tested.
On first down, Taylor got a little more than two, and knocked ND lineman Louis Nix III out of the game — but for only one play.
“It’s now or never!” shouted safety Matthias Farley, he of eight tackles and a 49-yard interception return, as Taylor twisted for another yard to set up third and goal inside the one.
“We’ve got to stop them!” screamed defensive end Stephon Tuitt as the rain beat down harder. Taylor lunged for another half yard before the entire defense pushed him back, leaving Stanford fourth and inches from tying the score.
“I love you guys,” team captain Manti Te’o announced before what would be the game’s final play. “But whatever happens, everybody stick together!”
They did, and somehow, someway, the determined Taylor was turned back, and did not get in. Some say the replay should have reversed the ruling on the field that Taylor was stopped short, while others claimed the whistle was blown just before his one last turn to paydirt. In any event, the replay could not overturn it, and both Notre Dame’s perfect record, and the defense’s perfect record in preventing rushing touchdowns, remained intact.
“The sky’s the limit,” was the cliche Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin uttered after the game. Still, as I watched Te’o search the heavens for his girlfriend, and several of the other players looking up at the Lady on the Dome as they sang the Alma Mater, I decided that at Notre Dame, the “sky” is really where it all begins.
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