Snap Judgments: Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13

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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.