Jimmy Clausen threw for a career high 347 yards and three touchdowns and the Irish defense was very opportunistic, intercepting Stanford three times, as the Irish held on for a 28-21 victory over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday and improved to 4-1.
The Irish took a 28-7 lead into the fourth quarter and closed out the game by forcing Stanford to a turnover on downs with 2:24 left. Stanford got the ball again with eight seconds left but fumbled on their own 10 yard line to end the game.
Clausen, who has had back-to-back career games in terms of passing yards, (275 and 347 yards respectively) looked to have total command of the offense this week as he completed 29-40 passes. His three touchdown passes were from 21, 48, and 16 yards out.
Michael Floyd led the Irish receivers with five catches for 115 yards. Floyd and Clausen connected on a 48-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter to give the Irish a 21-7 halftime lead. The Irish put the finishing touches on with a 16 yard touchdown reception to Kyle Rudolph. While the Irish running game struggled, 83 yards on 27 carries, the passing game dominated the Stanford defense winning the time of possession 33:20 to 26:40.
Clausen clearly is coming into his own with the passing game. He threw the deep ball very well today connecting on seven passes of 20 yards or longer. He spread the ball well, completing passes to seven different receivers and did not turn the ball over.
The Irish played a bend but do not break style on defense. On their first offensive possession Stanford drove from their own 26 down to the Notre Dame 34 before David Bruton intercepted a Tavita Pritchard pass. That interception led to a 21 yard touchdown pass to Armando Allen to give Notre Dame an early 7-0 lead. On their second possession, the Cardinal drove down to the Irish 29 yard line and Pritchard threw his second interception of the game. On the day, the Irish defense had three interceptions and sacked Pritchard five times.
Punter Eric Maust had two punts that pinned Stanford inside of their own 5-yard line.
The Irish defense was run all over today. Stanford averaged 6.6 yards per carry, led by running back Toby Gerhart's 104 yards. The Irish have to go back to the drawing board and develop a better game plan against the run as they travel next week to Chapel Hill to take on the 4-1 North Carolina Tar Heels who demolished the 24th ranked UConn Huskies 38-12 yesterday. The Heels are averaging 120 rushing yards per game.
Field goal kicking is an area that greatly needs to improve. Brandon Walker was 0-2 in field goal attempts (41 and 47 yards). Neither field goal was close. Charlie Weis says that in practice Walker is constantly put in pressure situations and continues to come through. Unfortunately for Weis, Walker is 1-7 on field goal attempts for the season with his only made field goal (41 yards) came last week against Purdue.
Notre Dame will travel to Chapel Hill this week to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in a battle of 4-1 teams.