Sept. 25, 2010
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Owen Marecic scored on a run and interception return 13 seconds apart and Nate Whitaker kicked a career-high five field goals Saturday, leading No. 16 Stanford to a 37-14 victory over Notre Dame that has the Cardinal 4-0 for the first time since 1986.
It was just the third victory in South Bend for Stanford, and its first since 1992. The Cardinal have now won two in a row against Notre Dame (1-3), a first in the series that dates to the 1925 Rose Bowl.
Notre Dame got only a field goal off three turnovers - including Andrew Luck's first two interceptions of the year - as it dropped its third straight and seventh in the last eight games. The loss also was Notre Dame's 11th straight against Top 25 teams, with five of those losses coming at home.
Luck and Stanford didn't look quite as sharp as the team that piled up 155 points in the first three games, with Luck throwing multiple picks for the first time in 16 starts. But the Cardinal simply overwhelmed the Irish, piling up 404 yards on offense and stifling any hint of a Notre Dame rally.
Whitaker kicked field goals of 24, 41, 36, 33 and 29 yards. Luck finished 19 of 32 for 238 yards and a score.
Dayne Crist finished with 304 yards passing, but the Irish couldn't get into the end zone until there was 6:01 left and the game was well out of hand.
Notre Dame appeared to have the momentum early, when Doug Baldwin muffed a punt return on Stanford's first possession. After signaling for a fair catch, the ball bounced off of his hands and Zeke Motta recovered it at the Stanford 21. But the Irish could only get a few yards here and there on the drive, and had to settle for David Ruffer's 22-yard field goal.
Stanford caught a break on its next drive. On third-and-1 at the Notre Dame 20, Irish nose guard Ian Williams appeared to stop Marecic about a half-yard short of a first down only to have officials credit him with a 2-yard gain. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly challenged the call, but it was upheld to keep the drive alive.
Seven plays later, Luck connected with Coby Fleener on a 16-yard touchdown pass, and Stanford never trailed again.
And if Notre Dame had any hope of getting back in the game, Marecic put an end to it in a 13-second span midway through the fourth quarter.
One of the few two-way players in major college football, Marecic scored on a 1-yard run with 7:58 to play. After only a few minutes to catch his breath - he had to have been wishing for a few more commercials - he intercepted a pass from Crist on the very next play, running it back 20 yards for the score to put Stanford up 34-6.
Even some rare miscues by Luck didn't help the Irish.
Luck threw only four interceptions last year, his first as a starter. But he was picked off near the end of the first half and midway through the third quarter - both times as he looked for big-play receiver Chris Owusu. Notre Dame couldn't do anything with either, though, going three-and-out each time.