A shorthanded Notre Dame squad gave a valiant effort, but four touchdown passes from Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck was more than enough in Stanford’s 28-14 victory over the Irish Saturday night in Palo Alto. Luck threw for 233 yards and rushed for 20 more in his last effort for Heisman votes. Sophomore Andrew Hendrix came on in relief of a struggling Tommy Rees and led Notre Dame with 192 yards passing and a touchdown while rushing for 20 yards and another score.
Most of the game played out sloppy. The teams combined for 21 penalties and five turnovers. If not for Luck, this game could have been much different.
Stanford would strike first on their second possession when they used a short field to march 58 yards in seven plays leading to a short three-yard touchdown pass from Luck to his 6’8″ tight end Levine Toilolo.
The Irish would answer well on their next drive moving all the way to the Cardinal 24 before Rees coughed up the ball giving it back to Stanford. After an exchange of possessions, Notre Dame made thier biggest play when Darius Fleming picked off a batted ball and returned it to the Cardinal 11. Unfortunately, ND couldn’t punch it in settling for a 20-yard field goal attempt by David Ruffer who promptly left it wide right keeping it 7-0 Stanford.
The Cardinal would make the Irish pay for their mistakes covering 80 yards in 10 plays with Luck hitting Coby Fleener for a 28-yard touchdown and a 14-0 advantage.
The teams would trade turnovers, Stanford fumbling and Notre Dame throwing a pick, before Luck would wrap up the half with his third touchdown pass on an 11-yarder to Ty Montgomery to take a 21-0 lead into halftime.
The game seemed to be in hand, but then Brian Kelly made the switch to Hendrix and quarterback and a rejuvenated Irish took the field. On the Irish’s second possession of the third quarter, Hendrix led a drive mixing run and pass along the way finally getting ND into the endzone with a six-yard strike to Michael Floyd to cut the Stanford lead to 21-7.
The Irish had a chances into the fourth quarter, but never could capitalize fully. Stanford put the game away with 5:40 left when Luck connected with Fleener on a 55-yard score. Hendrix would then punch a score in in the final minute to make the final 28-14.
Hendrix played well enough that another quarterback controversy may be brewing in South Bend. Rees went just 6-13 for 60 yards with an interception and a fumble. He’s been responsible for 15 turnovers this season and went just three games this year without and interception.
Regardless, Notre Dame finishes the regular season 8-4 making this the fifth straight season with at least four losses. They will most likely receive a bid to the Champs Sports Bowl to end the season against an ACC opponent.