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CFN Analysis - Pride Of The Irish
Posted Oct 13, 2012

CFN Analysis - Notre Dame stayed unbeaten with a gut check win over the Cardinal


How in the wide, wide world of sports was that not a touchdown?

Either Stepfan Taylor’s forward progress was stopped or a whistle was blown. Anything else and Taylor was obviously in for a touchdown in overtime, but even though that’s going to be the signature moment and that’s going to be the controversy – a homer call for the anti-Irish crowd or “not enough evidence” for the Notre Dame fans – it shouldn’t take away from the fantastic step forward taken by the Irish in its terrific season.

The Irish made their own luck because of the pride of a fantastic defense, and also the play of a key offensive weapon.

The defense continues to be phenomenal, allowing just 272 yards of Cardinal offense and, technically, not allowing a touchdown, but it’s the cool, calm play of Two Minute Tommy.

Everett Golson has a magical quality with his quick feet and ability to improvise, but just when it seems like the offense is bogging down, in comes Rees to make things happen.

Gone are the big mistakes and the turnovers of last year. Gone are the forced throws and the bad reads. Rees completed all four of his passes for 43 yards and a touchdown that turned out to be the game-winner in overtime as he continues to be the ultimate luxury.

Notre Dame can have its cake, and eat it, too. It can keep going with other options at quarterback knowing it can turn to Rees at any time and expect production in the clutch. However it’s working, it’s working. There might be calls for Rees to start and get even more playing time, but there’s no need to mess with a streak.

Yeah, Notre Dame got its massive break, but helped by Rees, it also put itself in a position to get a little lucky.

By Matt Zemek

If you claim that Stanford got a raw deal on the final play of its overtime loss at Notre Dame, you would be entirely reasonable to do so. Stepfan Taylor's body did not hit the ground; it lay on top of other bodies before Taylor touched the goal line with the ball. There wasn't a clear and convincing whistle on the play, and even if there was, the very fact that the play was sent to the replay booth for review meant that it could have been overturned. The fact that it wasn't could certainly lead to arguments that the Cardinal got hosed. Fair enough.

Let's just realize, however, that Notre Dame still earned its win and that Stanford deserved to lose.

Once again, Notre Dame refused to allow an offensive touchdown in 2012. Once again, Stanford failed to score an offensive touchdown in 2012, having gone without an offensive six-pointer in its 17-13 loss at Washington.

Stanford, leading 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, merely needed to stop Notre Dame on a third-and-18 play. It couldn't. Stanford had another chance to win the game by stopping Notre Dame on the Irish's final drive of regulation. The Irish got into a low-percentage down-and-distance situation due to false start penalties, but Stanford's secondary once again got turned around, losing the focus it exhibited in the first three quarters. The Cardinal then put Notre Dame in a second-and-17 situation and a third-and-eight situation in overtime, but couldn't get a defensive stop. In the final 15 minutes of this contest plus the overtime sequence, Stanford's corners made terrible reactions to the ball, all while Notre Dame's quarterback-receiver combos performed on the same wavelength and found ways to keep drives alive.

You could argue about the call at the end, and you could also question Stanford's play selection as well, but in the final analysis, Notre Dame's defensive front owned Stanford's offensive line in short-yardage situations, including that final snap. Decrying perceived injustices has its place, but with that point being readily acknowledged, it still stands that Notre Dame was the better team in crunch time. That's how a BCS bowl is earned… in South Bend or anywhere else.

By Richard Cirminiello Fitting end for another classic Irish win.

How else should a Notre Dame win over Stanford conclude than in overtime with the field soaked … and the Irish D stuffing Stepfan Taylor in a goal line stand that’ll be remembered for a very long time around South Bend? If you just started following college football this afternoon, the last few minutes of regulation and the two series in OT showed you all you need to know about the 2012 ND squad. While it is not especially appealing on offense, there’s a certain grittiness and a determination, spearheaded by the play of that defense, that helps keep the program among the nation’s last remaining unbeaten teams. It’s finding ways to win, one of the signs of a squad whose intangibles allow it to overcome some of its shortcomings on the field.

In the spirit of the start of the ALCS and NLCS, is there a better relief pitcher in the sport than Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees? No, you don’t want him on the mound to start the game, or to have him throw nine innings, but with games on the line, he’s come out of the bullpen to calmly help lead the Irish to wins over Purdue, Michigan and now Stanford. Rees is an overlooked luxury for a coaching staff, a poised veteran who can settle down a huddle when the starter gets his bell rung or just when a change of pace is required.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Saturday in South Bend was exactly the kind of football SEC fans live for: two salty defenses lining up opposite run-first offenses with question marks under center. Toss in some inclement weather, and as far as smash-mouth, “old man” football goes, it didn’t disappoint.

However, then came two of the worst calls of the 2012 season.

I try not to single out officiating – officials are human and thus prone to mistakes like us all, instant replay corrects many of these errors, and even those that slip through typically balance out over the course of a game. We also rarely have “Walk Off” bad calls to end a game.

However, what I witnessed during Notre Dame’s final drive and the subsequent overtime cheapened both the game and the sport.

First, the personal foul call on the tackle that knocked Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson out of the game was at best an emotional mistake, but it was a mistake nonetheless – and it pushed the Irish into field goal range. If college football is going to continue its love affair with hurry up offenses, quarterbacks that run need to be viewed exactly as that – runners. Not quarterbacks. You would NEVER have seen that call made on that hit against a running back, which is what Golson was on that play. Coming at the time/place that it did, that poor call materially impacted the game’s outcome.

But that was at least a judgment call, albeit poor judgment. The no-call on Stanford’s fourth down touchdown run in overtime was simply egregious. Reply clearly showed that Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor was neither down nor had been stopped, and the ball clearly touched and even crossed the plane of the goal line. Yet both the officials on the field AND those in the replay booth missed that obvious call, which gave the game to Notre Dame.

Especially given the advantage of instant reply, Saturday’s Cardinal/Irish game – in South Bend – will stand out in history not for the greatness of those athletes that competed, nor their accomplishments on the field of play, but rather for the officiating debacle that decided its outcome.

READ MORE: Mitchell: When poor officiating decides games.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

First and foremost, what a great, great game. With all of the offense being thrown around this year, it was almost refreshing to see a physically demanding, defensive game played out in the elements.

Those same elements gave way to a dream run continuing for Notre Dame. So too will the polarizing view on Notre Dame’s success. Largely because of the play on the field, and largely because of the controversy at the end.

Of course everyone will be debating on whether the Cardinal got hosed or not. It will result in discussions abounding on a myriad of levels. But let’s just pause and reflect on what the Irish are this season.

Notre Dame’s offense may not be anything to write home about, but so far, it has been a championship caliber defense willing the team to victory each and every week. Sure the wins are ugly, and the Irish have made their hay largely on teams that have yet to prove anything (Stanford is debatable), but so have other very good teams in the course of history. In fact, in recent years, the fabled golden helmets haven’t been able to punch their way out any schedule.

They are beating all challengers so far this year.

Say what you want about the controversy that played out before us, but it was still a remarkable goal-line stand to end the game--touchdown or not. That cannot be overlooked or glossed over whether you are a Notre Dame lover, or a Notre Dame basher. The Irish defense delivered hay-makers all day.

So on goes the golden dome run. On goes the chatter of whether the Irish are “back” or not. Nothing is going to be easy from here on out, but there are huge matchups still to come at Oklahoma, and at USC that will give us all an answer when all the cards are finally played.

Now about that goal-line stand, er--touchdown at the end.