Instant recap: Football clinches Pac-12 North and defeats Notre Dame

Nov. 25, 2017, 8:55 p.m.

Everything came up Cardinal on Saturday night as Stanford clinched the Pac-12 North and defeated the Fighting Irish in dominating fashion.

By winning the Pac-12 North, Stanford will play USC on Dec. 1 in the Pac-12 Championship game.

The Cardinal clinched when Washington defeated Washington State 41 to 14 on Saturday.

No. 20 Stanford football (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12) wins its third straight against Notre Dame (9-3) with a 38-20 victory on Saturday night in Stanford Stadium.


Sophomore quarterback KJ Costello had himself a day with a career-high four passing touchdowns, and he threw 14-22 for 176 passing yards.

The last Stanford quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a game? Kevin Hogan ‘16 against Notre Dame in 2015.

Notre Dame’s game plan on defense was to focus on junior running back and Heisman-hopeful Bryce Love, and it worked as Love had 36 rushing yards on 10 attempts in the first half.

But as Costello stretched the defense, Love found more room to operate in the second half. He ended the game with 125 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Outside of giving up two big plays of 83 yards and 75 yards, the defense held its own. The Cardinal had six sacks and 10 TFLs in the game. In the fourth quarter, the defense and special teams forced three turnovers which helped the Cardinal end the game with a comfy lead.

Senior defensive tackle Harrison Phillips was excellent for Stanford once again as he added to his team-leading sack total with two more on Saturday. He also had three TFLs of his own.

The first half was a roller coaster of extremes for the Cardinal on offense. The first three drives yielded only 29 yards of total offense. Stanford’s running game was ineffective and Costello didn’t do much when he had the opportunity to pass the ball.

The offense couldn’t get it going before Notre Dame scored. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush bought time in the pocket and threw it to wide receiver Kevin Stepherson who took the ball 83 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest passing touchdown for the Fighting Irish since 2010.

Coach Shaw made the necessary adjustments on offense and Stanford began to air the ball out more. Costello on the next drive found junior wide receiver Trenton Irwin for a 29-yard touchdown which finished a 5-play, 72-yard scoring drive which tied the game at seven a piece.

The Cardinal defense got a stop after linebackers fifth-year senior Mike Tyler and junior Mustafa Branch combined to sack Wimbush.

The offense, using the momentum from the previous drive, scored again when Costello threw his second touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Arcega-Whiteside. The drive put Stanford up 14-7 and featured 20- and 26-yard pass completions from Costello to sophomore Kaden Smith.

Another stop by the defense, gave the Cardinal the chance to go up two possessions but a first down conversion by sophomore running back Trevor Speights was wiped out by a chop block penalty from sophomore right guard Nate Herbig.

Stanford punted the ball and the Fighting Irish drove the ball easily down the field. The defense managed to limit Notre Dame to a field goal.

The second half started with more quick offensive fireworks from the Fighting Irish.

On the first play, Wimbush threw a 75-yard touchdown to wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown to give Notre Dame a 14-17 lead.  

The Cardinal responded with a 9-play, 64-yard drive which ended in a field goal to tie the game at 17 for each team.

Love had a 31-yard run when a spin move freed the junior to a big gain down the left sideline.

The field goal gave sophomore kicker Jet Toner his 20th field goal make of the season which makes him the second kicker in Stanford history to have more than 20 makes in a season.

On the Stanford-1, the Cardinal offense went three-and-out and were forced to punt. Fighting Irish punt returner Chris Finke returned the ball to the Stanford-19. A couple of penalties and runs stuffs by senior defensive tackle Harrison Phillips made Notre Dame kick a field goal.

Down three to start the fourth quarter, the Cardinal scored a touchdown on a 19-yard dime from Costello to Smith for Costello’s third passing touchdown of the game.

The score was Smith’s third receiving touchdown of the season.

Costello would then throw his fourth touchdown pass to senior tight end Dalton Schultz after Wimbush was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Curtis Robinson.

The Fighting Irish turned over it again when sophomore linebacker Jordan Fox forced a fumble on Notre Dame’s kick return. Junior running back Cameron Scarlett ran it up the middle for a three-yard score to give Stanford a 38-20 lead.

Wimbush’s second interception this time at the hands of junior safety Frank Buncom ended Notre Dame’s already small hopes for a comeback.

The Cardinal will have a short week to prepare for the Pac-12 Championship game against USC. The Trojans defeated Stanford 42-24 earlier in the season. The matchup will also be a rematch of the Pac-12 title game from two years ago where Stanford won 41-22.

Stanford will battle USC on Friday, Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. PT in Levi’s Stadium. The game will be broadcasted by ESPN.


Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’

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