Snap Judgments: Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13


It may not have been pretty, but it was a classic finish for the Fighting Irish defense. With Stanford having 1st and Goal at the 3, the Cardinal got the ball to within a foot of the goal line with two plays to get it in. But the Irish defense wasn’t about to give up their first rushing touchdown of the year. With the defensive front stuffing Stephan Taylor behind the line of scrimmage on two consecutive plays, Notre Dame iced an instant classic with its defense — and even had to wait out a replay review in the pouring rain — before resuming their celebration.

Before we run down to hear Brian Kelly discuss it, here are a few snap judgments and answers to our previous questions as we recap the incredible 20-13 overtime victory for No. 7 Notre Dame.

Could Everett Golson beat Stanford’s defense?

No. And he almost beat his own team. While his offensive line didn’t help him out, Golson struggled in horrific conditions, completing only 12 of 24 passes while turning the ball over three times. To his credit, he rebounded from a disastrous start, and threw a clutch touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert.

But Golson’s suspect ball control (and internal clock) proved near fatal as he coughed up the ball multiple times, testing the patience of Brian Kelly and 80,000-plus fans in Notre Dame Stadium. Yet the quarterback rallied before he was knocked out of the game by a nasty helmet-to-helmet collision. From there, the Irish rode Tommy Rees for the game tying field goal and the winning touchdown pass.

Can the Irish get a big play or score from their defense or special teams?

Oh, let me count the ways. Other than the gigantic goal line stand to seal the game, the Irish got two interceptions and the defense played huge against Stanford, holding the Cardinal to 272 yards of total offense. Let’s call that a resounding yes.

Can the Irish weather the storm?

Barely. Showing a resolve we haven’t seen from Notre Dame teams of recent memory, the Irish did just that, battling back from a touchdown deficit and doing everything right down the stretch. The rain was certainly a major factor — right now there is a river running down the walkways inside the stadium — and the Irish coughed up the ball three times, but still managed to pull off the win.

Will this year be different?

This ending certainly was. Notre Dame didn’t play their A game. Probably not their B game, either. But a win is a win. Survive and advance, especially against a tough team like Stanford. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a heart-breaker either.

Notre Dame gets to 6-0 in dramatic fashion. That’s got to count as progress on a cold and dreary October night.


Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.