1: Stanford, 2015
On the surface, this may not appear as bad as the Michigan State loss, but this defeat is absolutely gut-wrenching once you start thinking about all the “what if’s.” This wasn’t an incredible comeback, but it was a thrilling back and forth game. The contest featured 9 lead changes, and the biggest lead of the day was just 7 points. It was everything you could want in a football game, until the end.
Thanks to some DeShone Kizer heroics the Irish ripped the lead away from the Cardinal, this time on a two yard run with 30 seconds left. The question was, did they leave too much time on the clock? Stanford had the ball at their own 43 with 15 seconds to go. Things were looking great.
Then, Kevin Hogan hit Devon Cajuste for a 27 yard completion. The ball was down to the Irish 30, and all of a sudden, things weren’t looking good. A Christian McCaffrey run got them two yards closer and more centered. After a timeout by each team, Stanford kicked the game winning, walk off field goal that split the uprights. Stanford walked away with a 38-36 victory.
This was painful for a couple reasons. First, had Notre Dame converted an earlier two point conversion attempt, the Irish would have had a three point lead, sending the game to overtime. Second, had Stanford been stopped, the Irish would have been 11-1. They would have beaten three ranked teams, including victories over both Pac-12 division champions, the AAC East champions, and a extremely close loss to the ACC Champions.
The Irish more than likely would have made the playoff over an 11-1 Oklahoma team that lost to a common opponent in Texas. This truly was excruciating.