Kyren Williams (23) celebrates with Braden Lenzy (0) in the end zone after Stanford game’s first TD. (Photo by Douglas Stringer/IconSportswire)

Halftime Observations– ND 24 Stanford 0 For all the domination, ND did not run the ball particularly well on the ground, just 36 yards. Going into the game Stanford’s rush defense was ranked 127th in the nation.  Hmmm….I can hear my grandpa saying, “MOVE ON Phillip,  some things  aren’t meant to make sense”. On the other hand, Stanford does seem to have a lot of guys stacked in the box and Jack Coan is rocking the efficiency numbers through the air.  18-23, 198 yards, 2TDs, no picks.  That’s some fancy shooting.

In the second quarter, Isaiah Sanders (the Stanford back up QB) pulled off a little slight of hand and triggered a blown coverage resulting in a 44 yard TD pass—–that was nullified by a block in the back.  So the streak is intact!  The ND defense now has gone 14 quarters without giving up a TD.

Expect to see Coan for about one drive in the second half. Then expect Tyler Buchner to start earning his pay. And I expect ND to hit at least one big one on the ground. (What actually happened: Buchner played but Jack Coan was still seeing action to the end as BK was looking for style points. The running game did improve and Tyler Buchner hit a 45 yard rush. Kelly confirmed after the game that Stanford was stacking the box most of the game against the run.)

Game Start Gambit For the first time this season the Irish kicked off to start the game when Stanford won the toss and elected to receive. It is no secret that Brian Kelly prefers to go against convention and always take the ball to start games when he can. The Irish defense, accepted the challenge, and forced a three and out. After the Stanford punt the Irish offense plowed through the Cardinal with a five play 57 yard drive capped off with a 16 yard TD toss, Coan to Lenzy. 7-0, and the Irish had the ball coming out in the second half. I liked that feeling of having the ball to start the second half, but no second guessing here. Brian Kelly is not going to stop taking the ball to start games, and he has won a lot more games than I have. All though I did once lead a U10 Flag football team to a 12-0 season…..

Quick Hits: ND fans represented well here in Palo Alto, Stanford fans did not. It has to demoralize a team when the visiting fans out number your own…..Stanford had 9 penalties for minus 64 yards–ND had just 4 for 35. This has been a trend. The Irish are playing disciplined football and seem to bring out the mistakes in other teams….54 wins for the Irish in the last 5 years, that kind of winning makes me want to shed a few tears of joy-if you like winning you should be happy as well. Just saying…..The Irish are perfect on the road this year…..Kyren Williams went over 1000 yards for the season on his last carry of the night…..55 yards rushing for Stanford….Bo Bauer targeting ejection-correct call. There is a fine line between controlled ferocity and uncontrolled that can get you flagged. For Bauer it is a constant struggle…..Palo Alto is a beautiful town and Stanford a fabulous campus, for game day pregame “warm up” with expertly tuned TVs on every game imaginable I recommend The Patio, just off campus. No, I didn’t partake, after all I was going to work, but a hundred or so ND fans did. Also, the nachos were great and it was fun watching the snow fall back in the Midwest!

Confidence to a Fault/ Get Back on that Horse   On the first drive of the second half Jack Coan, on a 3rd and 2 from his own 33, tried to hit the tiniest of windows between double coverage and got burned.  The result:  interception, short field, Stanford scores first in the second half and the 14 game quarter streak of not allowing any touchdowns is over.  Seconds later, Coan came right back and hit Kevin Austin with a well designed seam route that gained 61 yards.  Two plays later Coan himself snuck the ball into the end zone and the mistake was revenged. You have to have short term memory to play this game, Coan’s got it.

The Ademilola Brothers:  Double trouble Justin Ademiola, early in the 2nd quarter earned the defensive all on one play “quad crown”: sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble, fumble recovery-that is a lot of stats on one play. Post game when I asked him about the play, he credited defensive tackle Rylie Mills with setting him up for success on the play. That sort of humble response is typical of this team, and is something instilled by the coaching staff and team leadership. Ademilola repeated the acronym to the media “FTB”, which stands for “for the brotherhood”, as defining the team philosophy.

Speaking of brotherhood, Justin’s brother, Jayson is pretty good himself. He actually may be one of the most unappreciated players on the team. On the season Jayson has 44 tackles, 8 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Justin has 33 tackles, 6 TFLs, 5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Double trouble indeed.

Style points Part 2 By playing his first team on offense right through the end of the game BK kept his foot on the accelerator and the result was not only a big win, but one that looks good as well. But Kelly it would seem had another motive. I was standing on the field wondering in the last 5 minutes wondering why in the world Kyren Williams was still in the game running hard. Just so you know, on his last carry, he surpassed the 1000 yard mark for the season on his last carry of the night, a 12 yard TD run. Season total: 1002.

Post game, an obviously pleased Brian Kelly was adamant that his team is one of the top four in the nation. “We’ve got one of the best four teams without question in my mind in the Country. We’re ready to prove it.” And it sounds like maybe he is starting to enjoy the style points as well, “That’s 100 points now if you guys weren’t counting over the past two weeks, to 14.”

What it all means. The Irish now must wait on the committee. Ohio State losing to Michigan moves the Buckeyes down so the Irish should move to fifth. Alabama escaped in the “Iron Bowl” against Auburn and that hurts, because Cincinnati, Georgia and Oklahoma State took care of their business. So, as of now it looks like the following, 1. Georgia, 2. Michigan, 3. Alabama 4. Cincinnati, 5. ND, with conference championship games next weekend. ND fans need to cheer for Georgia to knock out Alabama in the SEC and Baylor to beat Oklahoma State in the Big 12. If those two things don’t happen, Brian Kelly’s late season style points may be too little too late.

The consolation prize would be a trip to the Fiesta Bowl or the Peach Bowl. Possible opponents would include Pittsburgh or…….wait for it……Ohio State.

That would be spicy! Keep it right here for Irish news daily, bulletins at once.

And THAT’s A WRAP!

By Phil Houk

For 25 years, bringing you the glory of Notre Dame football.

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