Notre Dame football is 7-0 after the bye week and ahead of their tango against Navy. Which game was Notre Dame’s best team performance to date?
The best part about this season’s Notre Dame football team is perhaps its ability to play complementary football. The Irish have utilized an improving attacking offense and a defense that holds the fort and forces turnovers to propel Brian Kelly’s team to a 7-0 record through the bye week.
There were a few candidates for best overall team performance. A week one victory over Michigan comes to mind, as does a road victory over Virginia Tech two weeks ago. But Notre Dame’s best overall team performance was undoubtedly their win over the Stanford Cardinal.
Notre Dame hosted the Cardinal in a top-10 matchup on September 29th, and the game was as good as advertised. The Cardinal came to South Bend after knocking off Oregon the week before.
For the Irish, it would be Ian Book’s second start and the first game action for Dexter Williams, who served a 4-game suspension to start the year. Both performed admirably, as Book completed 24 of 33 passes for 278 yards and 4 touchdowns and Williams ran the ball 21 times for 165 yards and a score. It would be remiss to not mention Miles Boykin, who hauled in 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Irish were stout, as well.
The Irish were up against a unique Stanford offense, which aims to create mismatches all over the field with tall, athletic tight ends and wide receivers. Oh, and that Bryce Love guy is pretty good, too.
The Irish defense answered the call.
Outside of a 39-yard run that netted the Cardinal a touchdown, Love was bottled up all day. Stanford quarterback KJ Costello, who put up big numbers in Stanford’s first 4 games of the season, was held in check, as well. He completed 15 of 27 passes for only 174 yards and 1 touchdown.
As for the game, Notre Dame and Stanford traded scores throughout the first half, but Notre Dame possessed the ball last in the half and took a 21-14 lead into the break.
In the second half, the Irish were nothing less than dominant, especially on the defensive side of the ball. After Justin Yoon put the Irish up 24-14, Stanford got no closer than 24-17 the rest of the way.
With just over 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Irish put the game away. Book hit Boykin for an 8-yard score to put the Irish ahead 31-17. On Stanford’s next offensive play from scrimmage, Te’Von Coney intercepted KJ Costello.
With Stanford on their heels, Book hit Alize Mack on the back side of the formation and the big tight end walked into the endzone to put the exclamation point on a complementary victory. The Irish would go on to stalemate the Cardinal and run out the clock.
The victory put the Irish front and center of the College Football Playoff discussion and set the tone for the Irish heading into Virginia Tech week. The Irish were able to silence some doubters who thought that their early-season success was nothing more than a fluke. They also ended a streak of futility against a Stanford program that has had Notre Dame’s number in recent seasons. That is why the win over Stanford is Notre Dame’s best overall team performance to date.