Notre Dame defense stifled Stanford, Costello in second half
SOUTH BEND — David Shaw allotted one minute and 36 seconds for his opening statement following Stanford’s loss.
When a reporter pondered what distressed Shaw the most about his offense, the Cardinal coach rattled off a quick retort.
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Shaw said. “Next question.”
Perhaps Shaw had too many options from which to choose. No. 7 Stanford (4-1) gained a mere 31 yards across 20 plays in the second half against No. 8 Notre Dame (5-0), which remained perfect with the 38-17 victory.
Cardinal running back Bryce Love turned his first eight carries into 63 yards. His 39-yard rushing score squared the contest at 7-all in the first quarter. On Love’s final nine carries, though, he rushed for 10 yards. He exited with 11:52 remaining in the fourth after he was injured on a two-yard loss.
The Cardinal ended with a season-low 55 yards on the ground.
Irish defensive tackle Jerry Tillery set the tone with four sacks, elevating him to seven on the season. His 4.5 sacks all of 2017 led Notre Dame.
His four sacks Saturday would have led all of ND's 2016 defensive line combined.
“He had one hell of a night,” said K.J. Costello, Stanford’s junior quarterback. “He played very good football and smacked me a couple times. We have got to be better. As an entire offense, we can’t put our tackles and our guards in tough situations.
“We have to be able to run the ball, and we have to be versatile. We can’t allow them to pin their ears back. And that goes with being more efficient on first down.”
Notre Dame’s pass rush often disrupted Costello’s timing. Senior receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside entered the weekend ranked No. 2 and No. 7 nationally in receiving touchdowns (7) and yards per catch (24), respectively.
He caught one pass for six yards in the second half.
Earlier, Costello connected with Arcega-Whiteside for a four-yard touchdown to match the Irish at 14-all in the second quarter. Cornerback Julian Love could not overcome the receiver’s strength on the fade route.
But Love later recorded career pass deflection No. 33 — a school record — and limited Arcega-Whiteside to five catches for 30 yards on nine targets.
“I would have loved to test Julian (Love) a little bit more tonight,” Costello said. “They were clearly giving him help underneath. There were times where we had some stuff dialed up to exploit the backside, but we just did not get the ball off.”
The Cardinal almost captured the lead heading into halftime. Costello began a drive with the score still knotted at 14-all and 3:02 remaining. He found his tight end, Colby Parkinson, on a 31-yard seam route.
Stanford responded with tempo, which worked well against Oregon last week. A completion for four yards followed by two incompletions not only ended the drive, but it also wasted just 59 seconds.
Notre Dame capitalized on the 2:02 remaining with a seven-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard Chase Claypool touchdown catch.
“I take full credit for that,” Shaw said. “Great opportunity for us to go down and score. Took a chance on a third down. Shouldn't have done it. Should have gotten in position to get points, like we always do. It was my fault.
“Tried to do something we shouldn't have done. Great opportunity for us to get points before the half is over, hopefully run a little bit more clock and go into the halftime ahead. Instead, gave the ball back to them, and they went down and scored on us.”
The momentum sparked a four-sack second half for Notre Dame’s defense. Four of the Cardinal’s six drives in the second half resulted in three-and-outs. Notre Dame linebacker Te’von Coney intercepted Costello on the opening play of another drive, leading to the final score, a 35-yard Ian Book-to-Alizé Mack back-breaker.
“In the first half, we had a couple big plays,” Costello said. “Then, we rolled off the big plays and ran efficiently on first and second down. The best I can remember, we had a couple big plays in the second half, but it would stall on first and second down. Then, we would deal with (third-and-long). You don’t love being in that situation…We were in situations we weren’t used to being in.”
Notre Dame’s offense fed off Tillery and Co. to the tune of 550 yards and 29 first downs. Ian Book finished 24-of-33 for 278 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target, Miles Boykin, registered a career-high 11 receptions and 144 receiving yards.
No throwing distance conquered Book either. He completed 13 passes of at least 10 yards and five beyond 15. His top completions came on sideline throws of 19 and 33 yards to Boykin, who also caught an eight-yard touchdown. Unlike backup Brandon Wimbush, Book executed his screen and intermediate passes.
“The quarterback has got a quick release,” Shaw said. “He's got great feet. He's athletic enough to get himself out of trouble. We had him in trouble a couple times and didn't bring him down. Quarterbacks like this, if you don't bring them down, they can get first downs with their legs. They can get first downs with their arms.”
Running back Dexter Williams shined in his return from a four-game suspension, rushing for a career-high 161 yards on 21 carries. His first carry, a 45-yard score, gave the Irish a 7-0 advantage.
“Credit to their offensive line, all those guys up there,” said Sean Barton, a Stanford linebacker. “Whoever was running the ball gained yardage. I think we pride ourselves in stopping the run, and running the ball on offense. And we could not really do, either.”
Said Shaw of Williams, “He’s got a little bit more juice. He’s got quickness. He runs hard, runs physical and runs through tackles.”
Costello almost dismissed a reporter, as Shaw did, after the game. The question ended with, “You pretty much got manhandled by those guys.”
A pause, along with a laugh, was followed by an honest answer.
“I mean, you are not wrong,” Costello said. “It is just hard to swallow. As an offense, we pride ourselves in being physical, physically dominant.”