The Stanford football team (1-4, 0-4 Pac-12) was a minute away from its first FBS win in 11 tries, but a miracle play by Oregon State left the Cardinal still winless in conference play.
There is no rest for the weary however, as the team now travels to South Bend, Ind. for a clash with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (3-2). The Notre Dame brand carries considerable weight in the college football world, but this is not the usual Irish team. ND lost to Marshall earlier this season, but also took down ranked BYU. Still just a season removed from a College Football Playoff appearance, the Fighting Irish remain heavy favorites in this matchup.
The Daily’s Kaushik Sampath, Noah Maltzman and Drew Silva discuss the loss to Oregon State, the Cardinal defense and the upcoming matchup against rival Notre Dame.
The Cardinal were a minute away from victory this past Saturday but had it snatched in the final seconds. Still winless in conference play — and against FBS opponents since Oct. 2, 2021 — what do you expect Stanford’s reaction to be against Notre Dame after such a quick change in this season’s fortunes?
Kaushik Sampath (KS): I think this team possesses a lot of mature individuals that will try to put the past behind them as they prepare this week. However, last week’s game had to hurt the team’s morale on the inside, whether or not they admit it. Despite playing their best game all year, the team still wasn’t able to come out with a win.
The key to whether a bounce back can happen is whether the team thinks they have anything to play for going forward. With CFP and Pac-12 championships out the window, Stanford is really playing for pride at this point.
Noah Maltzman (NM): One of two things could happen: either Stanford gets motivated from their anger of the last second defeat, or they get depressed because of it, and continue to play sloppy. If there is any match to break the streak of FBS losses, I do not think playing in the harsh environment in South Bend, Ind. against a Blue-Blood will yield fruitful results.
Drew Silva (DS): With the Cardinal coming off of a demoralizing home loss, some more sloppy play could be on the horizon against a Notre Dame team that has started to find their groove as of late. As Noah mentioned, the environment in South Bend is not the most welcoming to visiting teams. However, with this being a rivalry game, I am hopeful that Stanford will be motivated to reclaim the Legends Trophy and break this prolonged FBS losing streak, or at least keep this game relatively close.
The defense played perhaps its best game of the season against an FBS opponent. Junior defensive lineman Tobin Phillips recorded two sacks and was a large part of that. What did you make of the play on the defensive side of the ball?
KS: While the run defense still struggled, the defensive line was disruptive all night in dropback situations. The Cardinal also did a good job of limiting the Beavers in the red zone, forcing them into field goal situations several times. If Stanford is able to pin their ears back and get pressure on third down going forward, they might be able to win some games on their schedule to close out the year.
NM: While the defense played well for most of the game, they failed to convert on the most crucial set of downs, and unfortunately, that is how that game will be remembered by fans and analysts. It is a rarity this season to say that Stanford’s front seven played well and cohesively, however, this past week against the Beavers, they built a dam that lasted three quarters. It was the secondary that showed weakness, and it is important for Shaw to continue emphasizing the importance of tackling.
Even before Oregon State had that last drive to go and win the game, the decisive play of the evening was David Shaw’s decision to send out backup freshman quarterback Ashton Daniels on a third & short. What did you make of that?
DS: As soon as I saw Daniels trot out onto the field, I knew what the play call would be, and I am sure that the Beaver coaching staff knew as well. I do understand the vision, but I would have liked to see McKee stay behind center and run a less predictable play. The Cardinal offense was having their most complete game of the year, and I was disappointed to see this potentially game-sealing drive end with McKee on the sidelines.
NM: This was a bold risk, which turned out to be a dud. While I hold the lack of tackling to fault for this loss, it does not escape my notice that better offensive play calling could have gotten the Cardinal out of the mess in the first place. Having said that, I understand why Shaw and offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard tried to do; they wanted to confuse OSU by not putting in McKee. This, however, could have been handled better, as OSU knew to anticipate the run with Daniels on the field. In that situation, up by five points, I think it would have been better to try with the quarterback who got those 27 points, but I see the merit behind the on-the-spot decision.
Notre Dame has not been the same Fighting Irish team that we have come to know over the years. However, ND just took down then-No. 16 BYU. How good are the Irish actually?
KS: Well I think BYU is a very overrated team. When they’ve faced high-level competition this season, they’ve often crumbled. But I think the win shows that the Fighting Irish are building momentum, even in a down year, as they’ve had three straight wins against FBS competition. I think if you dropped this Irish team into the Big Ten or SEC, they would finish around the middle of the conference.
NM: I adore Marcus Freeman, and I think that after he gets some experience under his belt he will be among the best CFB coaches. Right now, the team is still in transition mode from the 12 years of agony under Brian Kelly, and it shows. Their hope is that their recent win against BYU will give them the confidence they need to finish out the season. In terms of if they are “good,” it is hard ot quantify if they are. They are a team with a moderately low floor but a sky-high ceiling, and will be interesting to see what the rest of their season looks like. As of now, I would describe them as a “mid” team.
What are your score predictions for this one? Can Stanford rebound in South Bend?
KS: Stanford 17, Notre Dame 41. The Irish defense isn’t particularly great, but they’ve held their own against some great offenses like Ohio State and North Carolina. Back-up quarterback turned starter Drew Pyne has been playing well recently. I think the momentum the Fighting Irish bring with them into this game is too much for the Cardinal to overcome.
NM: Stanford 28, Notre Dame 49. The home crowd in South Bend, Ind. is a lot to handle, even for a big program. I find it hard to believe Stanford can stand up to them on their home turf because of the talent, as well as it being at home. Like Kaushik said, they should have momentum after beating BYU, and I see them carrying that momentum past the Cardinal.
DS: Stanford 17, Notre Dame 38. The Fighting Irish have recently gotten back on track after starting the season with a pair of losses, and I do not expect the Cardinal to come out of South Bend victorious.