The Stanford Cardinal demoralize the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in 17-10 comeback
South Bend, Indiana – Stanford (4-2) spotted Notre Dame a 10-point lead at the half and came back with 17 points in the second with an amazing pick-six, a Notre Dame miscue, and a controversial fumble recovery right in front of our Field Level seats in Section 19 to demoralize the Fighting Irish and their stunned faithful, 17-10, for their third straight loss at home this season. With a 2-5 record, tough games ahead, and a season on the decline, the Irish look to be a long shot for any bowl game at all after high expectations starting this season. Unlike Ohio State reloading and back in the hunt for a CFP bid after an exodus of many key players in 2015, The Fighting Irish struggle under the same circumstances despite supposedly recruiting great classes like the Buckeyes do. For Collegefootballfan.com, it was a fun, long weekend to be back in South Bend all the way up until the time we arrived at our game seats. Our Guest Game Analyst (GGA) and fellow NJ K of C Polar Bear Plunger, Bill Serafin (Montclair State) was able to get us great field level seats on the field level in the south end zone. However, Notre Dame, in its quest to maximize profits, blocks the views of $125 ticket holders with a permanent structure for the NBC-TV camera so everyone at home can watch better than we can for free. No mention of an obstructed view on the tickets, but we found that out when we got there that we could only have a clear view of the field from about the near hash mark to the sideline to our left. In 518 games attended in person, this was the highest priced ticket ever willingly paid for, but the worst sight line ever experienced in over 125 stadiums attended anywhere. It certainly put a damper on our much-anticipated game. Though we had high hopes when we bought our tickets that this would be a significant game among all games for the 2016 college football season, there was no issue for us about that to make the 650-mile one way trip, but for Notre Dame to charge any fan that much for those seats is an outrage! They should either replace the permanence of the TV camera with some other technology, block out the obstructed seats (about 10 or 12) from being sold, or reduce the cost by at least half and let the buyers know in advance that they are only going to get a good view of about half the field. Enough about this, but “I call them as I see them”, or in this case, how I couldn’t see them!
Stanford took the opening kickoff and moved the ball downfield to get within field goal range. PK Conrad Ukropina’s lifted high over our heads in section 19, but hit the left upright and fell to the ground for no score. As the game went on, the Irish D looked better and they definitely tackled better than when we witnessed the 50-33 win over Syracuse in The Meadowlands two Saturdays earlier. A fumble forced by Notre Dame’s Jonathan Bonner and recovered by Julian Love gave the Irish possession on their 26. Driving the ball to the Stanford eight, Kizer faked a handoff to the right and rambled around the left end for a Notre Dame score to lead, 7-0.
The Irish D played better than during the first five games of the season, but Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey of Stanford was sidelined for this game with injuries. We hope to see him back in the lineup when we take our longest trip of the season when we venture out to Cal-Berkeley to see him play against the Cal Bears in The Big Game. Notre Dame took over from its 24 and converted a first down on fourth and one at Stanford’s 43. The possession ended with a 29-yard FG by Justin Yoon to take a 10-0 lead. The next Fighting Irish drive resulted in Kizer quick-kicking after a time-out on fourth down at the Stanford 37, and went into the end zone for a touchback. The Cardinal mounted a drive until CB Cole Luke made a diving interception I front of Ryan Burns’ intended receiver for ND to let the clock expire on their own 18.
The Band of the Fighting Irish performed at halftime. We enjoyed pregame festivities before the game after Mass in the Debartolo Arts Center. We went to hear the Trumpets under The Dome at the Main Building where we could only hear but not see the trumpets in the packed hall, but I did get some great photos of art work featuring the life of Christopher Columbus to show my fellow brothers in our K of C back in Boonton, NJ. Out in front of the Main Building, we listened to a short concert by the band and got in line along the walk way to see them prep and start off on their march to Notre Dame Stadium. GGA’s Les Di Vite (Seton Hall) and Steve Ciesla (Juniata/Montclair State) enjoyed following the band to the gridiron battle playing “The Notre Dame Victory March” and “Hike! Hike! Hike!” among other Fighting Irish tunes. We had anticipated this weekend for several months before the season started. We also had a great tailgate among other Irish fans in a lot close to the stadium run by our new friend, Greg, that was well organized. He provided plenty of space to guests who wanted to set up for a spread-out tailgate or room for a simple one. His signs read, “Closest spaces in the world to Notre Dame Stadium”. We found it along our walk to the Linebacker Lounge on Friday afternoon. Great time!
ND received the opening kickoff, but Stanford reversed this advantage with DB Quenton Meeks’ INT. I couldn’t see the catch from my blocked view, but Meeks ran the ball across the field from my right to left within our sight lines and took it down the left side for a 50-yard TD run that cut the Irish’s fragile lead, 10-7. On Notre Dame’s next drive, from what I could see, Kizer (14 for 26, 154 yards, two INTs) over threw his intended receiver and the ball went into the waiting hands of Safety Dallas Lloyd. Kizer’s passing acumen has slipped since we saw his great performance against Temple last season. A hard sack of Burns by Jaron Jones resulted in a fumble recovery by the Irish. Malik Zaire came in to replace the ineffective Kizer starting from the Irish 34. Zaire, who hadn’t played much since the opener at Texas, looked rusty to say the least. The result was a punt on fourth and 18 from the 26. The next Irish drive started from its five and the result was worse than its last as the snap from center went through the end zone for a safety for the Cardinal, closing the score at 10-9. Things were not going well for the Fighting Irish.
The ensuing Stanford possession took the game into the final period. During this drive, a very nice usher came and took Steve and me to what he said were better seats. They were. All the ushers nearby were very friendly to us. This gentleman had previously come to our row and offered people to our right to move over into empty seats vacated in section 18 by “fans” who left at the end of Q3 with their Irish holding on to a one-point lead. Supposedly, these seats had better sight lines according to the helpful usher. When he had originally offered the gracious opportunity to the couple on my right, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, but firmly and politely asked, “That’s nice of you, but why don’t you get that camera out of the way so all of us here can see?” It sent him into action as I figured this was not the first time he was doing this. I couldn’t have been the first one to complain about the obstructed view we had paid good money for. He came back minutes later to escort Steve and me to row 16 in our section in bleacher seats with cushions on them no less. The sight lines were much clearer view for sure. A little later, he moved Bill and Les to some vacated seats lower and to their left to avoid the obstructed view with the cameraman’s butt in our way. Little did Bill and Les know what they were about to see up close next! On a second and six at the Notre Dame seven right in front of them, ND Safety Nico Fertitta made a jarring tackle of Stanford RB Bryce Love (23 carries for 129 yards) and knocked the ball loose before he crossed the goal line. The ball bounced toward the end line. Les saw Irish LB Nyles Morgan try to scoop it up instead of falling on it (“Steve, if that had been one of us back in high school, Coach Molitoris would have had us doing fumble drills all week long.”). The ball continued to roll instead, and Les, Bill and the entire front row swore an ND player recovered the ball, but by the time the twisted pile of bodies unraveled, Stanford WR J.J. Arcega Whiteside came up from under the pile with it for the Stanford score. Bill said he thought that the Irish player with the ball may have had his leg out of bounds when he seemingly recovered it, but after further review, the call could not be disputed and the Cardinal had the 15-10 lead. The Cardinal lined up for two to extend a seven-point lead. All of Stanford’s pre-snap action indicated they were going right. The Irish defense stacked up to that side before the snap from center. Burns showed action right and promptly pitched left to Love who ran to that side unscathed for the seven-point lead. Stanford now forced ND’s hand to score a TD and to go for the win if it did. The Irish with Zaire under center went three and out. Stanford’s next drive ate up clock but came to a stop after Burns’ pass to Michael Rector was broken up to require a punt from the 47. The Fighting Irish started from their 25 and after two completions where the Stanford secondary kept the receivers in bounds to keep the clock running. The Irish called their final time-out with 41 seconds left to play. With a fourth and one at the 16, Josh Adams picked up two for the first down. On fourth and ten at the 14, DL Solomon Thomas forced Kizer to fumble and time had run out for Notre Dame. The Irish fall to 2-5. Unbelievable! That’s as bad as Rutgers.
The beleaguered Fighting Irish have a bye next week to prepare for their next game in Florida against the Miami Hurricanes. Stanford (4-2, 2-2) will host an improving Colorado Buffalo team (5-2, 3-1) in a key PAC 12 contest. Collegefootballfan.com has a double-header weekend planned. On Friday night, Temple (4-3, 2-1) will host South Florida (6-1, 3-0) at The Linc in a key battle for the lead in the AAC East. Then on Saturday evening, we will be in State College, Pennsylvania for the first time this season where Penn State (4-2, 2-1) will host No. 2 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) in a White-out where they always give the Buckeyes a tough time.
Extra points: DL Solomon Thomas impressed us with his line play early in Saturday’s game. He finished the day leading in tackles with 12, ten of which were solo.
We had a great time at the Linebacker Lounge on Friday night right next to the Notre Dame Campus.