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  • Notre Dame tight end Nic Weishar, reacts after his 6-yard reception for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Saturday, September 29, 2018 11:16 pm

Notre Dame beats No. 7 Stanford, remains undefeated

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – 

How it Happened

The first quarter was dominated by a pair of huge run plays, one by each team. After Notre Dame got stopped on 4th-and-1 near midfield on its first drive, the Irish moved the ball again on the second possession. Quarterback Ian Book completed a beautiful 19-yard out to Miles Boykin to move the ball into Cardinal territory and two plays later running back Dexter Williams got his first carry of the season. Williams burst through a hole in the left side, cut back to the middle and raced 45 yards untouched for a go-ahead touchdown that made it 7-0.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Stanford marched right down the field on its ensuing possession. Quarterback K.J. Costello went 4 for 5 for 32 yards on the drive, moving the ball to the ND 39. From there, star running back Bryce Love got a handoff and outraced everyone to the end zone, showing the speed that helped him run for 2,100 yards last season. His touchdown evened the score at 7 and momentarily quieted the crowd.

Near the end of the first quarter, the Irish drove again, with some more help from Williams. The returned running back broke runs of 18 and six yards to move the ball past midfield, where the drive nearly stalled. The Irish faced a 4th-and-2 and decided to go for it again. Instead of running, Book looked to throw and found tight end Cole Kmet, who made a tremendous leaping, contested grab for 19 yards. Three plays later, Williams picked up a blitz with a huge block, giving Book time to find a wide-open Nic Weishar for a 6-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Irish lead.

Once again, Stanford answered. The Cardinal went to its passing game and was rewarded with a 45-yard catch-and-run from Osiris St. Brown, brother of former Irish receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Then, Costello threw to the end zone and Troy Pride Jr. committed a pass interference penalty to put the ball at the Irish 2. Pride didn't like the call and it seemed like receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside pulled him down on the play. Regardless, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Arcega-Whiteside then boxed out Julian Love on a jump ball for a 4-yard touchdown to knot the score at 14.

Late in the first half, the Irish grabbed the advantage a third time. Stanford nearly pinned Notre Dame at the 1-yard line on a punt, but three Cardinal players let the ball get through for a touchback. That turned out to be a big play, because the Irish marched 80 yards in 1:20 for a go-ahead score before the half. The big play was a 33-yard pass to Miles Boykin in which the big receiver spun away from a tackle. Later in the drive, Book avoided a sack, ran around in the backfield and finally found Chase Claypool in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to give his team a seven-point lead at halftime.

The teams traded field goals and plenty of punts in the third quarter, with the Notre Dame defense holding the explosive Stanford offense in check. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Irish put the game away with a three-play span. First, Boykin caught an eight-yard pass from Book and split two defenders to score and make it a 31-17 game.

On the first play of Stanford's ensuing drive, linebacker Te'von Coney perfectly read a Costello pass and picked it off. Costello had thrown a number of interceptable passes in the second half, so actually throwing one seemed somewhat inevitable. On the opening play of Notre Dame's next drive, Book rolled to his right and then threw back to a wide-open Alize Mack, who walked in for a 35-yard touchdown. In a 15-second span, the game turned from closely-contested into a rout and Notre Dame coasted the rest of the way.

Player of the Game: Dexter Williams

Williams, playing in his first game after reportedly being suspended for disciplinary issues over the summer. He ran for a career-high 161 yards on 21 carries, a 7.7-yard average. It was his second career 100-yard game and first since the 2017 season-opener against Temple. 

Facts and Figures

The matchup was the first Top 10 matchup at Notre Dame Stadium since No. 9 Notre Dame fell to No. 1 USC 34-31 in 2005, the "Bush Push" game. Notre Dame hadn't won a Top 10 matchup at home since it beat No. 1 Florida State in 1993. ... Notre Dame beats Stanford for the first time since 2014. ... Notre Dame is 23-11-1 in Top 10 games at Notre Dame Stadium in the Irish's history. ... Cornerback Julian Love broke up a pass in the third quarter, giving him 33 for his career and setting a new Notre Dame record, breaking All-American Clarence Ellis's record, which he set in 1971. ... Boykin caught a career-high 11 passes for a career-high 144 yards. It was his second 100-yard game of the season and third of his career. It was the first 10-plus-reception game for a Notre Dame receiver since Michael Floyd against Boston College in 2011. ... Book completed 72.8 percent of his throws for 278 yards and four touchdowns. ... Coney led the Irish defense with seven tackles, an interception, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. ... Jerry Tillery had four sacks for the Irish. He had 4.5 sacks all of last year. ... Stanford's Love, who has two career 100-yard rushing games against the Irish, was held to just 73 yards on 17 carries. 

What's Next?

The Irish are back in action at 8 p.m. Oct. 6 on ABC, taking on Virginia Tech (4-1) at Lane Stadium Blacksburg, Virginia. The Hokies are coming off a 31-14 win against No. 22 Duke, bouncing back from a huge upset defeat at the hands of Old Dominion Sept. 22. The teams have met just once before, a 34-31 Virginia Tech win in South Bend in 2016.

dsinn@jg.net