Stanford football (3-9, 2-7 Pac-12) lost its seventh consecutive game on Saturday evening, falling 45-14 to No. 6 Notre Dame (11-1).
This is the fifth consecutive game in which the Cardinal failed to score more than 14 points. It is the fourth consecutive game Stanford has lost by at least 21 points.
23 senior student-athletes were honored before the game, one of them being standout defensive end Thomas Booker, who finishes his Stanford career with 157 tackles and 10 sacks.
“You hear the statement that the days are long but the years are short, and I definitely think that that’s an accurate statement in regards to my time here,” Booker said. “It seems like just yesterday that I was a freshman, so it’s crazy to see how the time flies. But I’m just so proud and happy to have had the experience.”
The game did not go as planned for Booker and the Cardinal, however, as Stanford’s offense struggled to move the ball in the first half. The Cardinal had seven drives before the break, five of which ended in punts and another in a fumble by sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee.
The Cardinal got close to getting on the scoreboard on a trick play with sixth year Isaiah Sanders in at quarterback. Head coach David Shaw dialed up a series of fake handoffs, and Sanders then threw it to tight end Benjamin Yurosek, who was wide open. The sophomore ran into the end zone for what the crowd thought was Stanford’s first points of the day, but the play was called back because of a personal foul by junior running back Austin Jones.
Stanford forced Notre Dame to punt with seconds to go in the first half, getting the ball at the Notre Dame 41-yard line with three seconds on the clock. Shaw trotted out sophomore kicker Joshua Karty, who was just wide on the 59-yard field goal attempt.
The Irish took full advantage of the Cardinal’s offensive struggles. A 16-yard strike from quarterback Jack Coan to wide receiver Braden Lenzy got the Irish on the board early, and they kept pouring it on. Touchdown drives of 69 and 75 yards followed soon after, and the Irish found themselves up 24-0 heading into the break.
The second half got off to a positive start for the Cardinal, as junior safety Jonathan McGill intercepted Coan and returned the ball 23 yards to the Notre Dame 13-yard line. Two plays later, McKee handed it off to Jones, who rushed it into the end zone for a 5-yard score.
But the Irish responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive in just four plays, capped by a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Coan. The Irish led 31-7 early in the third quarter.
Notre Dame tacked on a couple more touchdowns before the clock hit zero: a 33-yard rushing touchdown by backup quarterback Tyler Buchner and a 12-yard rush by running back Kyren Williams with less than a minute to go.
Stanford put more points on the board in the middle of the fourth quarter when McKee found Yurosek over the middle of the field for a 49-yard score. The game finished 45-14 in favor of the Irish.
Yurosek was a bright spot for the Cardinal, tallying five receptions for 87 yards. He finishes his sophomore season as the team leader in receiving yards with 653 and is poised to be a star on the offense next year.
After a strong campaign this year, sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee is expected to lead the offense once again next season. McKee finished the year with 2,327 yards, a 65.4% completion percentage, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
With the book closed on 2021, Stanford will have to sit with a seven-game losing streak heading into next year.
“Someone asked me earlier in the week if I was going to be glad when the season is over,” Shaw said. “The answer was no. This team has worked so hard and is such a joy to be around, even through difficult times.”
“We have a special group coming back,” he added. “We’re going to have a special season.”
Stanford’s first chance to get back in the win column will come in just over nine months when the Cardinal host Colgate on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022 in the season opener.