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Notebook: Notre Dame

Oct 13, 2022

WHEN STANFORD RETURNED to practice on Monday – two days after a heartbreaking 28-27 loss in the final seconds to Oregon State – "there was still a little residual pain," said David Shaw, Stanford's Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. 

But resilience has taken root since. 

"Our guys never cease to amaze me," Shaw said. "As much as that game was difficult, as much as that game was painful at the end, I refuse to look past the positives."

No sacks allowed, no turnovers until a final desperation pass, two touchdown catches by Brycen Tremayne, two sacks by Tobin Phillips. 

The forward-looking approach is especially necessary given Stanford's 1-4 start and with a road game at Notre Dame (3-2) on Saturday night. 

"We're going to extract those positives, and push those things forward," Shaw said. "Now, we'll play against a good Notre Dame team on their turf. We're ready to go battle and try to find a way to finish the game."
 
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STANFORD HASN'T PLAYED at Notre Dame since 2018 – a strange gap given their annual rivalry and the Legends Trophy that goes to the winner. Notre Dame won the 2018 contest, 38-17. They split their previous four meetings at Notre Dame Stadium, including Stanford's most recent victory at Notre Dame, 17-10 in 2016. 

With Notre Dame facing fourth down at the Stanford 14-yard line with 12 seconds left, the Cardinal forced quarterback DeShone Kizer to keep the football. Kizer was dropped by Solomon Thomas at the 12 as he lateraled. But it didn't matter as the play, and the Irish's hopes, died at the 14.

 

Bryce Love silenced the Notre Dame Stadium crowd with 129 yards rushing in 2016. Photo by Don Feria/ISIphotos.com.

 
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THERE WAS GOOD news on the Elliott Field practice facility this week, namely the return of two starters from injuries, cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly and offensive tackle Myles Hinton. The status of guards Levi Rogers and tackle Walter Rouse, however, was unclear. 
 
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CARDINAL SENIOR EDGE rusher Stephon Herron is from Indiana, but this will be his first game against Notre Dame. Herron redshirted in 2019, the series was not resumed in 2020 because of COVID, and Herron was injured at the time of the 2021 game. 

Herron is from New Albany, about 250 miles south of South Bend, but will have friends, extended family, and even his high school coaches at Notre Dame Stadium – 30-50 individuals overall. 

"It's like another homecoming," Herron said. "It's great to go home and play in front of my family. It's really exciting for me to see my grandparents, who struggle to get in and out of games, and both of my parents … I'm really excited."

 

David Bailey (left) and Stephen Herron on the tackle. Photo by Jim Shorin/ISIphotos.com.
 
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ONE OF THE most memorable games of the series at Notre Dame was the 2012 contest, a 20-13 Irish overtime victory. The game was known for a controversial Notre Dame goal-line stand, as Stepfan Taylor was stopped on repeated attempts from the 1. 

On fourth down, Taylor was hit before the goal line, but on second effort, he twisted and turned over several players and, with a final stretch of the ball, appeared to break the plane. However, officials ruled that Taylor's forward progress had been stopped, even though he never stopped inching forward, ending the game.

Was Taylor in? Shaw felt that he was … on the first play, if not the last. 

"The first time, absolutely," Shaw said. "The rules have changed since then. There's more of a mandate to review every goal-line play. He was in on first down. It did not get reviewed. 

"The other rule change is crews working together. That was a mixed crew. The people in the box weren't used to working with the people on the field. So, there was a lack of communication there. 

"I feel that the statute of limitations has passed where I can feel like I can speak freely about this, because I've had multiple conversations with multiple people over the years – with people who have sought me out, including some of the guys who were working in the TV truck, who looked at those replays. They insisted that Stepfan was in."

After that game, Stanford won eight straight to close out the season, including a 27-24 victory over UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game and a 20-14 Rose Bowl triumph over Wisconsin, Stanford's first Rose Bowl victory in 51 years.  

"As I sit here in difficult times with where we are in the season, there are a lot of times where one play or one game can spark a run in your team," Shaw said. "That's what we're hopefully looking forward to this weekend."
 
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Tanner McKee. Photo by Bob Drebin/ISIphotos.com.

SHAW PRAISED THE throwing of quarterback Tanner McKee, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State, with scoring throws to Tremayne of 21 and 37 yards. 

"He can make all the throws," Shaw said. "Downfield, the high ball on the outside shoulder, over the DB's heads, right on the sidelines, on the move. He hit Elijah Higgins down the middle between defenders. 

"When he's in a clean pocket, the guy's one of the best in America. We've got to keep him clean and give him opportunities to make those plays."
 
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JOSHUA KARTY, a junior computer science major, continues to be perfect on field goals from inside the 40-yard line for his collegiate career. He also is 41-for-41 on PATs. 

This season, Karty has made all four of his field-goal attempts, at distances including 53, 47, and 46 yards. 

"Something that I've been focusing on is keeping a mindset that each game will come down to a field goal in the end. Just staying ready no matter what. I always believe it'll be a close game and it will come down to me."

Bailey Parsons is the long snapper and Ryan Sanborn the holder.

 

Kicker Joshua Karty and holder Ryan Sanborn. Photo by Bob Drebin/ISIphotos.com.

 
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WHILE SHOWING IMPROVEMENT, Stanford still is seeking to play a complete game.  

"Our good is really good," Shaw said. "If we can finish the game with a victory and create some momentum, who knows what can happen. We're playing with excitement, energy, passion, and fire for each other. Then, you've got to finish the game. That's the next step for this team." 
 
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STANFORD SWITCHED TO a 4-3 defensive alignment this season after primarily deploying a 3-4 since 2010. The main reason was to better stop the run. The Cardinal run defense still has room for improvement, but Herron likes the switch.

"I do think it's better for our team," Herron said. "It's better for our personnel, especially in that D-line room. We've got guys on the edge like (sophomore) Aaron Armitage, and (junior) Lance Keneley, guys who are big enough to be able to play a true edge in that 4-3 without having to bring them down into 2-gap situations.

"While inexperienced in some ways, they have come along. Seeing them through camp, spring ball, and seeing how much stronger they are and how they're able to translate that onto the field has been great.

"It's about understanding the scheme and understanding that if everybody does their job, things are going to work out. But you have to continue to trust each other and build upon that trust."