By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. – Julius Jones quickly took the stress out of Tyrone Willingham’s return to Stanford, running for 106 yards in the first quarter of Notre Dame’s 57-7 victory over the Cardinal on Saturday night.
Jones finished with 218 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Fighting Irish player in school history to go over 200 yards three times in the same season. Ryan Grant ran for three touchdowns in Notre Dame’s highest scoring output since 1996.
Brady Quinn threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Matt Shelton and a 45-yard strike to Maurice Stovall – and Willingham enjoyed his first trip back to The Farm since leaving to coach Notre Dame after the 2001 season.
Willingham greeted several of his old players on the field after the game.
The Irish (5-6) won their third straight and were sharp coming off their bye week, which was no surprise considering they haven’t lost the week after an open date since Nov. 12, 1994, at Florida State.
Stanford (4-7) lost its final three games, but still improved over coach Buddy Teevens’ 2-9 rookie season last year. The Cardinal were hoping to finish on a high note, but instead suffered their worst home loss ever.
A small crowd of 46,500 witnessed the rout – compared to the 80,795 who came out last year for this matchup in Notre Dame Stadium. Many Stanford fans started leaving at halftime after the Cardinal fell behind 34-0.
Quentin Burrell recovered a fumble and returned it 65 yards for a TD and Garron Bible returned a fumble 44 yards for a score. Notre Dame hadn’t been this productive since beating Navy 58-21 on Oct. 29, 1994.
Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis was under constant pressure thanks to an inspired defensive effort by Notre Dame, which had three sacks in the first quarter and held the Cardinal to 9 yards in the opening period.
On the first play of the Cardinal’s second series in the third quarter, Lewis hit Mark Bradford for a 65-yard score – but that was one of few bright spots for Stanford.
Lewis struggled with his timing all night, and he gave way to backup Kyle Matter early in the fourth. Matter wasn’t any better. Regular backup Trent Edwards was hospitalized all week after undergoing emergency surgery on his left thigh injured in last Saturday’s loss to California.
Jones, coming off his career-best three-touchdown performance two weeks ago, broke two tackles on his 10-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. Jones had 74 yards in the Irish’s 90-yard opening drive, the team’s longest of the year.
Jones’ 25-yard carry on the first play from scrimmage put him over the 1,000-mark for the season. He is the eighth Notre Dame player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Here’s how bad things have been for Stanford: Punter Eric Johnson set school single-season records for number of punts (86) and yardage (3,687).
One Stanford fan was heard saying, “The only good news is there’s no traffic leaving the stadium.”