SOUTH BEND IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal passes the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 25 2010 in South Bend Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Stanford Beats Notre Dame 37-14, Goes To 4-0 For First Time Since 1986

The 16th-ranked Stanford Cardinal continued one of their best starts in recent memory, downing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to go to 4-0 for the first time in almost a quarter-century.

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Stanford Hands Notre Dame 11th Straight Loss To Top 20 Opponent

South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - Nate Whitaker connected on all five of his field goal attempts and two-way player Owen Marecic scored on consecutive plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, as No. 16 Stanford cruised past offense-starved Notre Dame, 37-14.

Andrew Luck threw for 238 yards on 19-of-32 throws with a touchdown toss to Coby Fleener for the Cardinal (4-0), who snapped their seven-game skid at Notre Dame Stadium and are off to their best start since 1986.

Luck also threw his first two interceptions on the year but helped Stanford convert 11-of-16 third down tries.

Stepfan Taylor amassed 139 yards from scrimmage in the win.

Dayne Crist completed just 25-of-44 throws for 304 yards with a touchdown and interception for Notre Dame (1-3), which was coming off last-second defeats at the hands of Michigan and Michigan State, the latter coming in overtime.

The Fighting Irish have now lost 11 straight games to top-20 opponents.

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Cardinal Conquer Irish, Go To 4-0

It wasn't particularly pretty, but it doesn't matter: Stanford is 4-0 for the first time since 1986, polished off the first supposed challenge of their schedule, and will take a blemish-free record to Autzen Stadium next week.

Andrew Luck was very good, not excellent, throwing for 238 yards and two touchdowns, but tossing a pick and completing just 19 of 32 throws. Stanford's defense did a number on Notre Dame's offense, keeping the Irish off the field by limiting them to four of 14 third-down conversions.

Owen Marecic, Stanford's two-way star, had the standout stat, rushing for a touchdown on one fourth-quarter play, then intercepting a pass for a touchdown on Notre Dame's next offensive snap.

But all this matters a lot less now. Stanford has Oregon to prepare for, and the Ducks loom larger than Notre Dame has in years.

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Punts, Pick Define Third Quarter In South Bend

The third quarter of Stanford-Notre Dame featured three punts, one interception, and three combined snaps in the red zone.

Those snaps were all Stanford's, and the Cardinal got a field goal on that drive to go up 19-6, but virtually nothing else of note has happened in South Bend since Andrew Luck's first quarter touchdown pass.

The super-exciting Irish of the Charlie Weis era might be gone for good. In their place, Brian Kelly and Dayne Crist have a team that seems achingly mediocre.

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Steady Luck Helps Cardinal Increase Lead

Stanford's nearly doubled up Notre Dame in total yardage and points. Andrew Luck remains the reason why.

Luck has 176 passing yards at the half as the Cardinal lead 16-6. Stanford is 7-of-9 on third downs, thanks mostly to Luck's arm, and the Fighting Irish appear more or less incapable of stopping him.

Then again, Stanford does have two turnovers. If Notre Dame can get lucky force a few more, maybe the Irish have a shot at getting a win over Luck.

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Andrew Luck Shines In First Quarter

Andrew Luck is going to be a Heisman candidate no matter what happens at Notre Dame today, but more play like his first quarter may make the Stanford quarterback a front-runner.

Luck threw for 57 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, lofting that TD to a spot only Cody Fleener could catch off of his back foot.

Notre Dame got a field goal and led early, but it will have to do a better job of disrupting Luck and Stanford's passing game to have a chance of avoiding a 1-3 start.

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Who Ya Got?

SB Nation's Spencer Hall examines rooting interests for the casual fan in Saturday's Stanford-Notre Dame game:

Notre Dame's been kicked in the teeth late in games two weeks in a row, but for a refreshing change of pace they'll probably get a refreshing early kick in the teeth from a far superior Stanford team. This means the Irish play the part of underdogs in theory, but following the divine retribution handed out to Mark Dantonio for calling a fake field goal to beat Notre Dame, consider: do you really want to watch Jim Harbaugh turned into a pillar of salt for beating the Irish by thirty on their home field? You do? That's...that's pretty gangster of you, actually. Respect to the iciness, and to your Hammurabian, Old Testament-steezy vengeance kick. You're clearly an emotionally mature person, which you'll have to be to handle the number of losses Notre Dame is going to take early this year.

Lean: Notre Dame

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Scouting The Cardinal

SB Nation's Rakes of Mallow examines the Stanford team coming to town Saturday:

The scariest thing about this team is their dominance without looking dominant. They have only had a handful of big plays this year. Most scoring drives have been 10+ plays with runs of 2-5 yards and passes of 5-7 yards mixed throughout. They run out 5 different RBs and haven't gone to one consistently. The one constant in the backfield is two-way FB/LB #48 Owen Marecic (more on him later). The two big WRs are Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin. Baldwin is their big play guy; he will certainly get some looks this week. Whalen is injured, which is a significant blow to their passing game. None of these guys are dominant.

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Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Back In Time

SB Nation's Rule Of Tree takes a look back at the last time the Cardinal won in South Bend:

Senior safety John Lynch, who shadowed preseason Heisman candidate Jerome Bettis, led Stanford’s impressive defensive effort. The safety sat out parts of the second quarter with a mild concussion, but forced a Bettis fumble on Notre Dame's first play after halftime. The turnover led to a touchdown that pulled the Cardinal to within 16-13, and after Stanford took a 20-16 lead, Lynch intercepted Rick Mirer in the end zone to spoil a long drive.

It was a signature game of sorts for Lynch, a two-sport standout who was leaning toward pursuing a professional baseball career while enjoying a solid, but to that point unspectacular, final college football season. Lynch finished the game with nine tackles and a hit that fractured the rib of Notre Dame receiver Lake Dawson. The win moved legendary Cardinal head coach Bill Walsh to tears and vaulted Stanford to 11th in the polls, its highest ranking in 12 years.

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No. 16 Stanford Vs. Notre Dame: Cardinal War Machine Comes To South Bend

(Sports Network) The 16th-ranked Stanford Cardinal will try to continue one of their best starts in recent memory, as the team faces off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this weekend in South Bend.

Stanford is off to a terrific start to the campaign, both offensively and defensively. After blanking UCLA, 35-0, in its Pac-10 opener on September 11th, the Cardinal showcased their firepower in a 68-24 rout of Wake Forest last weekend. The 68 points were the most in 42 years for Stanford, which is off to its first 3-0 start since 2001. A win this weekend and the Cardinal would enjoy its first 4-0 beginning to a campaign since 1986.

The Irish meanwhile, are coming off their second straight heart-breaking loss, as a fake field goal in overtime lifted Michigan State to a 34-31 victory in East Lansing last weekend.

"This is a difficult loss obviously," stated head coach Brian Kelly. "It came down to one play, which Michigan State executed, and we did not. This was a game that went back-and-forth, it was a hard-fought game, but we came up short."

The defeat came one week after Michigan used a long drive and late score to top ND 28-24. The Irish defeated Purdue 23-12 to open the season and the Kelly era, and this will be the team's first game versus an opponent outside of the Big Ten.

As far as the all-time series goes, ND holds a 17-7 advantage over Stanford dating back to the 1925 Rose Bowl. The Cardinal won last season's clash, 45-38, in the Bay Area, but ND has taken the last seven meetings at Notre Dame Stadium. Stanford's last victory in South Bend took place in 1992, when the Cardinal knocked off the sixth-ranked Irish, 33-16.

The Cardinal scored TDs on 10 of its 11 offensive possessions against WF last weekend, topping the 60-point plateau for the first time since 1968. Stanford, now averaging 51.6 ppg on the year, gained 535 total yards last weekend and that includes 311 on the ground.

Following a modes performance against UCLA, QB Andrew Luck was sensational versus WF, completing 17-of-23 tosses for 207 yards and four TDs. The versatile gunslinger added 69 yards and a score on the ground and more importantly, Stanford posted a TD on all eight possessions in which he was under center.

"He played a flawless game," Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh said of his QB, who has thrown 10 TDs against no INTs through the first three games.

Last weekend's win also marked the return of playmaker Chris Owusu, who made three catches for 65 yards and two TDs in a limited role. Owusu return couldn't have come at a better time, as fellow WR Ryan Whalen was injured early on in the game. Whalen, a consistent receiver, is tied for the team-lead in catches with 10, but is unlikely to play this weekend.

Despite losing Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart to the NFL Draft, the Cardinal has still found success on the ground, rushing for an average of 242.3 ypg thus far. A variety of runners have played their part in the ground attack, which has accounted for 10 TDs.

The Cardinal defense did a nice job against WF's triple-option attack last weekend, yielding just 283 total yards. Many of those yards came after the game had already been decided, so the performance was even better then the numbers would indicate. Stanford added five sacks to the mix, while forcing a pair of turnovers in the triumph. Michael Thomas led the way with seven stops, including two for a loss, while Chase Thomas tallied 1.5 sacks. Michael currently leads the team with 16 tackles and Chase is tops with 3.5 sacks.

Through the first three games, Stanford is limiting opponents to just 13.7 ppg and only 227.7 ppg. The pass defense has been especially good for the Cardinal, which is allowing just 90.0 ypg through the air. Stanford has yet to let up a passing TD as well.

The biggest positive for ND after three games is that QB Dayne Crist has proven capable of running the offense. The sophomore gunslinger has completed 60.4 percent of his tosses with seven TDs and two INTs thus far and is coming off a career performance. Crist threw for 369 yards and four TDs versus MSU last weekend, although also had a pair of turnovers.

"Dayne did some good things, but what he has to work on is ball control and taking care of the football," stated Kelly. "He is starting to grow as a quarterback and I'm proud of the way he competes, but we have a lot of work to do cleaning up things that keep drives alive."

WRs Michael Floyd and Theo Riddick, along with TE Kyle Rudolph give Crist plenty of options to work with and they were all effective last weekend. Riddick, a converted RB, enjoyed a breakout performance with 10 catches for 128 yards and a score. Rudolph added eight receptions for 80 yards and a score, while Floyd finished with six catches for 81 yards and two TDs.

Armando Allen paces the ground game with 253 yards, but ND has scored just two of its offensive TDs via the run thus far.

Defensively, the Irish have had some issues this season, especially against the run, yielding 197.7 ypg on the ground. Opponents are averaging 5.1 yards per carry versus ND, which has also been burnt for 246.0 ypg through the air.

ND's defensive woes were brought front and center last weekend, when MSU amassed 477 total yards, including 203 on the ground. While the Irish's defense was exploited, it was the special teams that ultimately let the squad down. MSU set up for a game-tying 46-yard field goal attempt in overtime, but faked the kick and instead converted a 29-yard TD pass for the win.

"It was the same play that MSU ran against Texas Tech, it was well executed, and our guy who was in coverage fell down," stated Kelly. "It was a good throw, he caught the ball and they executed the play. They deserved to win."

The Irish are coming off a pair of tough losses, but showed they could hang in their with some highly respected programs. Expect ND to stay close once again this weekend, only to see the Cardinal escape with a victory in the end.

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