Willingham Leads Irish Past Cardinal
Oct. 5, 2002
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Shane Walton and Courtney Watson each scored on interception returns and Rashon Power-Neal ran for a 3-yard touchdown to help No. 9 Notre Dame win a mistake-filled game against Stanford 31-7 Saturday.
Irish coach Tyrone Willingham - who was Stanford's coach for the last seven years - joins Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Jesse Harper as the only full-time Notre Dame coaches to open 5-0 in their first seasons at the school.
Notre Dame already has matched its win total from last season, and Willingham has his longest winning streak since Stanford won its last five games of the 1996 season.
Stanford (1-3) is off to its worst start since opening 1998 with one win in its first nine games. The Cardinal, who gave up 65 points in a loss to Arizona State a week earlier, have given up 96 points in two weeks, its worst performance since allowing 98 points in 1998 in a 63-28 loss to Oregon and 35-17 loss to Notre Dame.
Notre Dame had a season-high 249 yards rushing as Powers-Neal gained 108 on 13 carries. Ryan Grant, who scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, finished with 103 yards on 18 carries.
The Irish defense held Stanford to 61 yards rushing, including just 2 yards in the second half.
Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis, who struggled against Arizona State last week, was 20-of-42 for 209 yards with three interceptions.
The Irish overcame three missed field goals and 10 penalties, including one that wiped out a 92-yard punt return by Vontez Duff, as well as a shoulder injury that kept starting quarterback Carlyle Holiday from playing.
Holiday's replacement, former walk-on Pat Dillingham, struggled early but played well in the second half. Notre Dame's first two drives of the second half ended in an interception - when a pass bounced off Gary Godsey - and on a missed 38-yard field goal by Nicholas Setta.
The Irish took control when Ryan Grant scored on a 26-yard run and Dillingham, running right, split two Stanford defenders for a 13-yard pass to Maurice Stovall at the 8-yard line. Powers-Neal scored two plays later on a 3-yard run, pushing linebacker Jake Covault back into the end zone.
The Irish scored again two plays later as Lewis, under heavy pressure by linebacker Mike Goolsby, threw a fluttering pass that Walton intercepted at the 18-yard line and ran untouched into the end zone. The interception was Walton's fifth of the season.
On Stanford's next possession, Lewis threw an 8-yard pass that Alex Smith was bobbling as he went down. Watson ripped the ball away from Smith and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
Watson's score was the fourth of the season for the Notre Dame defense. The Irish offense has eight touchdowns and Notre Dame's special teams have scored twice.
Dillingham, who grew up five minutes from Stanford, was 14-of-27 passing for 129 yards with one interception. Holiday, who injured his shoulder two weeks ago against Michigan State, warmed up before the game and appeared to be moving with no signs of pain, but he never got in the game.
It didn't matter in the end, though, as the Irish took advantage of the Stanford defense. The Cardinal have given up 156 points through four games, an average of 39 points a game, and are on pace to break the school record of 389 points surrendered by its 1993 team.
The Cardinal's lone TD was set up by an Irish mistake. Duff's 92-yard punt return was called back after Pat Ryan was called for a personal foul for roughing the center. Instead of being down 7-0, the Cardinal had a first down at the Notre Dame 37.
Nick Sebes set up the touchdown on a delay. Lewis tucked the ball into Sebes' gut as Sebes stood bent over. Sebes waited a moment, then ran 21 yards to the Notre Dame 14. The Cardinal scored on the next play as Lewis connected with Teyo Johnson.
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
TODAY | 4:00pm PTLive
TODAY | 6:30pm PTLive