In a game that featured plenty of sloppy play amid strong performances from two defenses, it was No. 9 Notre Dame that managed to squeak by No. 14 Stanford and pass its first test of the season in a 17-14 win.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson overcame two first-half turnovers and a poor completion rate to come through when it counted, tossing the game-winning touchdown pass with 1:01 to go.
The odds were stacked against him, too.
Stanford took a 14-10 lead on an 11-yard Remound Wright touchdown run with 3:01 left in the ballgame. The Fighting Irish offense had not reached the end zone against the stingy Stanford defense since the second quarter, but Golson quickly led the offense deep into Stanford territory.
After the Cardinal defense dropped Golson for a loss on third down, Notre Dame had no choice but to go for it on a 4th-and-11 from the 23-yard line. Golson took a deep drop and felt the pocket collapse. He then rolled left and fired to a wide-open Ben Koyack in the back left corner of the end zone for a score.
Koyack ran a corner route and a coverage gaffe allowed him to run free past two Stanford defenders. By the time Golson found him, defenders were closing, but the 6-foot-5, 254-pound senior caught the pass and held on while absorbing a big hit.
The touchdown put Notre Dame up 17-14 with 1:01 to go and the Fighting Irish defense, which allowed only 205 total yards, subsequently held on for the win.
The Notre Dame defense put a halt on Stanford’s running game, limiting the Cardinal to just 47 yards. With the running game ineffective, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan was forced to go to the air and he struggled to just 158 yards passing and two interceptions on 18-of-36 throwing.
Hogan did score on a 10-yard run to start the scoring late in the first quarter, but Notre Dame responded to tie the score a quarter later on a 17-yard TD pass from Golson to Chris Brown. Neither team put up any points until Kyle Brinda booted a 45-yarder midway through the fourth. The Cardinal then responded with Wright’s touchdown prior to Golson’s heroics.
The game was largely a defensive struggle, but Notre Dame also gave away points on two botched field goal attempts on a rain-soaked evening.
Golson completed only 20-of-43 passes, threw an interception and lost a fumble in the first half, but he finished with 241 yards passing and two scores while connecting with eight different receivers. It wasn't his best performance, but it was just enough to get the Fighting Irish to 5-0.
This was an important win for Notre Dame from a national perspective. It was the team’s first game against a ranked opponent, so we really didn’t have a true barometer of how good this Notre Dame team was.
Is it a contender for the College Football Playoff? It still remains to be seen, but that question will likely be answered in two weeks when the Fighting Irish travel to Tallahassee to take on top-ranked Florida State.
The loss drops Stanford to 3-2, but it has plenty of time to dig itself out of a hole with nothing but Pac-12 games on the schedule for the rest of the season.
For more Notre Dame news, visit IrishIllustrated.com.
For more Stanford news, visit CardinalSportsReport.com.
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