The 56-27 dismantling of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons was the prologue.
It was a night Irish fans and players alike will cherish for some time going forward, as this was no easy feat. Brian Kelly had — as a plethora of pundits have pointed out — a 2-5 record against Stanford coming into the game on Saturday. Shaw and his Cardinal teams had been Kelly’s kryptonite,
That all changed as Book built upon his stellar performance against Wake Forest, adding 4 passing touchdowns against zero interceptions against top-10 competition. He connected with Miles Boykin 11 times for for over 140 yards. The offense kept churning, attacking with a four quarter long onslaught.
But, as good as the offense was, it was the defense that made the largest statement last night.
Lea had his group ready, and Kelly praised that in his Sunday Teleconference: “It was well conceived and a great tactical plan. He had the players in position to execute.”
Against a very strong Stanford offense — littered with playmakers from Bryce Love, to K.J. Costello, to JJ Arcega-Whiteside — the Irish stood tall. Allowing only 17 points and 229 offensive yards, it was a suffocating performance.
Standouts like Jerry Tillery and Te’von Coney — Tillery with 4 sacks, and Coney with 7 tackles and an interception — will get the headlines, but the defensive unit as a whole was fantastic. Michael Bertsch illustrates just how dominating the Irish defense was:
How dominant was @NDFootball in the second half last night?— Michael Bertsch (@NDsidBertschy) September 30, 2018
Notre Dame outgained Stanford, 243-31, after halftime. The Irish limited the Cardinal to just 1.6 yards per play over the third and fourth quarter.#BertschyBits
Writing, reading, and talking about this game does not do it justice. Watching this team break Stanford’s will in the fourth quarter was downright incredible, and it began with the defense.
Brian Kelly’s squad has awakened the echoes of teams past, from 2012 and beyond.
This season’s story continues.
Other Notes from the Teleconference:
- Injury Updates: Drue Tranquill will not miss any time with a metacarpal fracture, Tony Jones Jr. should not miss time with his ankle sprain, Jafar Armstrong will miss a few weeks with a knee infection, and Alex Bars will likely be out for the season with what appears to be both a torn ACL and MCL.
- Miles Boykin’s performance elicited some praise from Kelly, “He’s a big playmaker for us ... He’s really difficult to defend when throwing quick screens or go balls.”
- On Dexter Williams’ breakout: “He earned those 21 carries. He was diligent in his work ethic and put himself in great game shape.”
- Jerry Tillery was superb for the Irish last night, “He’s in his last year and he’s becoming a complete player. We’re watching his development in front of our eyes.”
- On how the defense slowed Costello in the second half, “We put them behind the chains on first down. It became more predictable for us. It helped with execution.”
- More regarding Tony Jones and his ankle: “We don’t think it’s a serious one ... We expect him to play with Dexter Williams. Certainly, we will have some auditions ... We need to have a younger back ready, whether it’s Jahmir Smith or C’Bo Flemister.”
- Trevor Ruhland looks to be the first option for replacing Bars, but it will be a rotation between him and Aaron Banks.
- On Asmar Bilal’s progress: “Recognition has allowed him to diagnose plays so much better. Those instincts require repetition — real, live repetition — [and] he hasn’t had a lot of it. The more he plays, the better he sees things. He is a really gifted athlete.”
- More on Bilal: “He was great in coverage and he set the edge really well for us ... He showed himself very positively. Just getting him out there and letting him do things, he’s getting better on his own.”
- Kelly touched on Book’s effect on the team, “He is creating energy within the group. They know they will get the ball, run after the catch, which causes a heightened excitement for the playmakers. They know they will touch the ball and make plays.”
- Hitting again on the offensive line rotation, “Josh Lugg is in the rotation and he can play either side. Ruhland and Banks are being looked at for the left guard position.”
- The Irish dominated in the trenches, as Kelly pointed out, “This year, I think we dominated on both offensive and defensive lines.”
- On how the win might help in recruiting: “I don’t think it hurts ... The kid that we lose to them doesn’t choose them because Stanford beat us a couple times. It’s clearly location and curriculum.”