Notre Dame has found ways to begin rescuing its season after a slow start.
There haven’t been such encouraging signs with Stanford’s decline, though.
The Fighting Irish and Cardinal meet Saturday night in South Bend, Ind., where the outcome could define the direction for the rest of the season.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. “We’ll have a motivated Stanford team. … I’m not looking at a record.”
Notre Dame (3-2) has won three games in a row, including victories over North Carolina and BYU — teams that are still receiving more points in polls than the Fighting Irish.
Stanford (1-4, 0-4 Pac-12) has lost four consecutive games — all in conference play. That includes a shocking 28-27 setback last week to visiting Oregon State, which overcame a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit and scored the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left.
“As much as that game was difficult, as much as that game was painful at the end, I refuse to look past the positives,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “We’re going to extract those positives, push those things forward, get on the road and play against a good Notre Dame team. … We’re going to battle and try to find a way to get that fourth quarter.”
The teams are competing for the Legends Trophy, which goes to the winner of this matchup.
Notre Dame continues to find strengths along the line of scrimmage, particularly with the offensive line.
“You see a group that keeps getting better and better and better,” Freeman said. “We’re continuing to have cohesiveness. We’re going to continue to ride the backs of our O-line and our D-line.”
Stanford has some shuffling along its offensive line and Shaw said that could continue.
Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne has expanded his influence on games as he has gained experience in the starting role. He found tight end Michael Mayer for 11 hook-ups in the BYU game last Saturday.
“He’s starting to make some plays when he’s improvising a little bit,” Freeman said. “That comes with confidence.”
Notre Dame could be without cornerback TaRiq Bracy, who suffered a pulled hamstring last weekend.
“He’ll be questionable,” Freeman said. “He’s kind of freaky athletically. Hopefully, he’ll bounce back.”
Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee has 10 touchdown passes and five interceptions through his first five games. The Cardinal have produced eight more first downs than their opponents this year, but those haven’t translated to victories.
“You’ve got to finish the game,” Shaw said. “That’s the next step for this team.”
The Fighting Irish lead the all-time series against Stanford 22-13 and have posted three consecutive victories.
–Field Level Media