Nov. 30, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) – Wayne Lyons intercepted two passes late in the fourth quarter, and No. 8 Stanford held off No. 25 Notre Dame 27-20 on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Cardinal (10-2) overcame two interceptions from Kevin Hogan and a penalty that wiped away another touchdown to win their 16th consecutive home game. Stanford will play for its second straight Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth next week when it faces No. 13 Arizona State in the conference championship game.
Tyler Gaffney ran for 189 yards and a touchdown, and Hogan threw for 158 yards and TD pass to Devon Cajuste to help the Cardinal take a 21-6 lead in the third quarter.
Rees nearly rallied the Fighting Irish (8-4) by throwing two touchdown passes later in the quarter. But interceptions on Notre Dame’s final two drives dashed Notre Dame’s come back. DaVaris Daniels caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“We had a chance to win the game. Our offense kept us in it. We just needed to make another play,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said.
Stanford relied on its power running game to control the tempo throughout, but blew several chances to pull away.
Gaffney plowed through the Irish line from a yard out to give the Cardinal a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. The bunched formation was similar to the one Notre Dame stopped Stepfan Taylor on last year to win in overtime, a stinging loss that the Cardinal regrouped from to roll off eight straight victories, including the Pac-12 title and the Rose Bowl.
Backup Anthony Wilkerson capped the opening drive of the second half in similar fashion. He ran for a 20-yard TD run on third-and-9 to put Stanford ahead 21-6.
Notre Dame drove deep in Stanford territory on its first and final drives of the first half before settling for field goals each time. With Stanford seemingly ready to turn the game into a rout, Rees rallied the Irish by throwing touchdown passes to TJ Jones and Daniels late in the third quarter.
“Not good enough obviously. Proud of the guys and my teammates and how we fought all year but you don’t come to Notre Dame to go 8-4, and everyone understands that,” Rees said. “You have to be better.”
Mistakes nearly cost the Cardinal late.
Stanford struggled to finish long drives with touchdowns in the second half, twice settling for field goals. On one of them, a holding penalty on right guard Kevin Danser – only the second one by a Stanford offensive lineman all season – erased a touchdown rushing for Gaffney.
Hogan threw his second interception of the game when Bennett Jackson came down with his pass at Notre Dame’s 21 with 6:23 remaining. Austin Collinsworth also intercepted a pass from Hogan in the first half.
Lyons intercepted an underthrown pass by Rees, the 36th straight game the Cardinal have forced a turnover. And after the Irish stopped Stanford three-and-out, Lyons leaped high to intercept another pass by Rees on Stanford’s 30 with 2:24 left.
“We had worked on trying to get the ball into the seam, got into a collision and obviously the interception,” Kelly said. “Again, couldn’t make the play when we needed to.”
Rees finished 16-for-34 passing for 199 yards. He passed Jimmy Clausen (60) for second on Notre Dame’s career list with 61 touchdown passes, behind only Brady Quinn (95).
The Irish already had beaten Arizona State and USC and were looking to go 3-0 against the Pac-12 this season.
After losing to Alabama in the championship game last year, the Irish will have to wait to find out what bowl they’ll land.
“It’s not where we want to be, 8-4 is not where we want to be,” Kelly said. “We come to Notre Dame to win football games.”