The Legends Trophy is up for grabs again as Stanford and Notre Dame renew their annual matchup. Many have questioned whether the Cardinal and the Fighting Irish actually have a true rivalry, but the product on the field has been undeniably entertaining over the past few seasons; there’s always a certain edginess in the air when these two teams take the field.
The last three meetings are no exception.
2011: Luck’s Stanford Farewell
Nov. 26, 2011 was a memorable day for senior quarterback Andrew Luck, who led his team to victory in his final game at Stanford Stadium. The future No. 1 overall draft pick eclipsed John Elway’s school record of 77 touchdown passes as the Card raced out to a 21-0 halftime lead before holding on for a 28-14 win after a sloppy second half.
Senior night also saw a big game from tight end Coby Fleener, who dragged a defender almost ten yards on his way to a touchdown. Fleener finished the game as Stanford’s leading receiver with 97 yards on four receptions, including a pair of touchdown grabs.
Conversely, it was a night to forget for Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees who committed two early turnovers before getting benched in favor of Andrew Hendrix. Michael Floyd provided a small bright spot for the Irish, recording a game-high eight receptions for 92 yards, but it was to little avail as Stanford closed out a dominant regular season campaign 11-1 and secured a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
The only major knock on Stanford was the team’s monochromatic, burgundy Nike Pro Combat Uniforms. The gloves were pretty cool, though…
2012: The Phantom Whistle
After a few years of Charlie Weis-induced malaise, the Irish announced their return to the top tier of the college football world with a huge win over the Cardinal in South Bend. While the game helped propel the Irish all the way to the BCS National Championship game, it also arguably cost Stanford the same opportunity — with tremendous amount of controversy.
With the score knotted at 10 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Stanford faced a 3rd-and-2 from the Notre Dame 3-yard line; however, running back Stepfan Taylor was sent back for a loss of seven yards on the play and Stanford settled for a field goal. After the game, many Stanford players were adamant that they heard a whistle on the play, which prompted Taylor and the offensive line to pull up.
Stanford head coach David Shaw addressed the issue after the game: “In case you’re wondering, just before our last field goal down there, we had a 3rd-and-2 and there was a whistle that came from the crowd,” Shaw said. “That’s why our guys stopped playing. It was verified. It was heard. The play did not stop.”
With 20 seconds left in the game, the Irish equalized with a Kyle Brindza field goal and the game went into overtime, where Taylor was again at the center of controversial officiating. After the Irish went up seven on their opening possession of overtime, Notre Dame orchestrated a game-saving goal line stand. Taylor appeared to cross the goal line on multiple plays, but the ball was whistled dead on account of forward progress in both instances.
“Life’s unfair, football’s unfair.” – Kevin Hogan, calmly reflecting on 2012 loss at Notre Dame and moving on
— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) September 30, 2014
As a result, the Irish picked up a massive victory and improved to 6-0 while Stanford hit its low point of the season, dropping to 4-2. The soggy conditions at Notre Dame Stadium created an ugly, low-scoring affair with both starting quarterbacks, Josh Nunes of Stanford and Everett Golson of Notre Dame, struggling. In the end, the Irish walked away with the win in a game that added a lot of fuel to the Stanford-Notre Dame fire.
2013: Thrown to Lyons
In 2013, the game returned to Stanford Stadium and the last weekend of November. The Cardinal had already clinched a spot in the Pac-12 championship game the following week and played a very conservative game (even by Stanford standards) against the Irish, who entered the game clinging to the narrow hope of making a BCS Bowl game. Kevin Hogan attempted just 18 passes, with Tyler Gaffney carrying the ball 33 times to lead Stanford to a 27-20 victory on the Farm. The game was very much up for grabs in the fourth quarter, but Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons intercepted Tommy Rees twice to seal the deal. The game was also remembered for the thundering cheer in Stanford Stadium when the final play of the Auburn-Alabama game was displayed on the big screen.
With the game set to take place in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, many questions remain for both sides. Golson faces his first major test since Alabama blew out the Irish in the national championship two seasons ago. Stanford’s offense remains suspect and faces another test on the road.
Overall, expect a tough battle. This game may not have the billing of a top rivalry, but it rarely fails to bring the entertainment.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.