Notre Dame vs. Stanford final score: Cardinal grind to 27-20 win

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State awaits.

The Legends Trophy will be in Palo Alto this year, thanks to Stanford's 27-20 win over rival Notre Dame, and more hardware could come next week if the Cardinal can beat Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Although the first half's scoring began and ended with two Kyle Brindza field goals, it was mostly all Cardinal otherwise -- sandwiched between those kicks were a Kevin Hogan pass to Devon Cajuste and a Tyler Gaffney touchdown run, which combined to give Stanford a 14-6 lead at halftime.

The two teams would trade touchdowns early in the third quarter, with Anthony Wilkerson's 20-yard run and a Tommy Rees pass to T.J. Jones neither extending nor reducing the margin . The score stood at 21-13 after that exchange.

However, the Irish began to get some luck with the help of a Stanford penalty -- late in the third quarter, Stanford was facing 3rd and 4 at the Notre Dame 5-yard line when right guard Kevin Danser was called for holding. Pushed back ten yards, that would eventually force a 27-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson that would make the score 24-13.

Two minutes later, the Irish would close to within 24-20 when Rees threw his second touchdown pass of the night, this one to Davaris Daniels from 14 yards out.

Unfazed by their slim lead, Stanford went on one of the methodical, clock-grinding drives that has become their trademark, chewing up nearly seven and a half minutes of game time on their way to another Jordan Williamson field goal that would increase the lead to 27-20 with 9:16 to play.

Notre Dame would remain within a touchdown over those final nine minutes, but they would prove unable to find the end zone, despite three chances to do so. The Irish went three and out on their first try due to a Shayne Skov sack. Their second attempt ended thanks to a Rees interception. And on what would prove to be their final drive of the game, Rees was intercepted again, his second on the night.

Tyler Gaffney would rush for a first down a few plays later to ice the game, allowing Stanford to simply kneel out the rest of the clock. The Cardinal were simply dominant up front, rushing for over five yards a carry while holding the Irish to roughly half that number at 2.7.

Box Score Hero: Tyler Gaffney rushed for a career high 189 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries, but Stanford also was helped by Wayne Lyons, who was responsible for both of Rees' interceptions.

Rankings Ramifications: With Alabama's loss, Stanford may move up a spot in the BCS rankings, depending on where the Crimson Tide end up.

But Did They Cover? Stanford was a 16-point favorite by kickoff. They did not cover.

For More On This Game: For more from the Notre Dame perspective, visit One Foot Down. For more from Stanford, check out Rule of Tree.

Next Week's Schedule: Notre Dame's regular season is over. Stanford will play Arizona State next weekend, although the location is pending the winner of the Territorial Cup.

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