The Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Stanford Cardinal rivalry may not be the fiercest of rivalries, but the Battle for the Legends Trophy does have quite the collection of nail biting moments. My favorite of which is the 2012 game, because who doesn’t love an overtime win in the rain? But one of my fellow writers is covering that game in depth, so I’m going to highlight some of the other great memories from this storied rivalry.
When did the rivalry start, you ask? On January 1st, 1925. It was Notre Dame’s first bowl trip, as well as their first trip to California, and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame traveled by train to California to play the Stanford Cardinal at the Rose Bowl. It was the final game for the legendary Four Horsemen: Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher. The Notre Dame defense had a very productive day, forcing eight Stanford turnovers, three of which were turned into Notre Dame scores. Layden himself returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Final score: Notre Dame 27 - Stanford 10.
In 2005, Notre Dame headed to Stanford Stadium for the Thanksgiving weekend game on November 26th, and narrowly escaped a loss, which in turn allowed them to hold on to their BCS At-Large Berth. Notre Dame arrived at Stanford with an 8-2 record, and it was a must-win game for the Irish if they wanted a BCS at-large bid. Even though Stanford only had five wins that season, they played up to Irish that day, and the game was close from start to finish. At the end of the first quarter, Notre Dame was up 14-7, and headed into halftime the teams were tied up 14-14. In the third quarter, Maurice Stovall scored a touchdown on a pass from Brady Quinn to put the Irish up 20-14, but the Stanford Cardinal came roaring back in the fourth quarter. With 2:15 left in the fourth quarter, Stanford took a one point lead, 31-30, putting all the pressure on the Irish. Brady Quinn’s response? No problem. Quinn marched the Irish down field on an 80 yard drive which took only 29 seconds, securing the winning score for the Irish on a 6 yard rush by Darius Walker, and a subsequent two-point conversion rush by Walker as well. Final Score: Notre Dame 38 - Stanford 31.
In 2007, Notre Dame’s win over Stanford was the crowning jewel in a season in which the Irish finished a lackluster 3-9. Notre Dame headed to Stanford on November 24th, 2007, with only two wins under their belt (UCLA and Duke). Notre Dame hung in with Stanford for the first half, heading to the locker room with the score tied at 14-14. In the second half, the Notre Dame defense stepped up to the plate to hold Stanford scoreless, and Robert Hughes scored the lone second half touchdown that put Notre Dame up 21-14. David Grimes tried to add an additional 7 points to that score, but the referees ended up reversing the touchdown call. I personally think they made the wrong call, but they also don’t pay me to ref games. Here’s the play ... what do you think? Final Score: Notre Dame 21 - Stanford 14.
And of course, I have to mention the 2012 goal line stand in which Notre Dame held on to beat Stanford 20 -13. If you asked me to rank the best Notre Dame games I’ve ever witnessed in person, this would definitely be in the top two ... with the other game being the 1992 Notre Dame vs Penn State Snow Bowl game. The Notre Dame vs. Stanford game in 2012 was the first game I watched as a credentialed member of the media, and I watched the game from the press box. With five minutes remaining in the game, the media is allowed to watch the end of the game from the sidelines. I really have no other words to describe the experience but that it was surreal. There I was, in the pouring down rain, standing on the 20-yard line, watching this epic finish play out right in front of me. Had I been at home, my hand would have been over my eyes. But there I was, as close as I could possibly get, with my eyes glued to every single play. As I have rewatched the game this week, I still get chills and am overcome with emotions. Hearing the hit that Manti Te’o made on the second to last play of the game, and then watching the defense give 110% on that last play to keep Stanford out of the end zone. The whole thing was just surreal. Final Score: Notre Dame 20 - Stanford 13.
Bring on Stanford! Cheers & GO IRISH!