Notre Dame closes regular season with 38-20 loss to Stanford
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STANFORD, Calif. — K.J. Costello threw two of his career-high four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and No. 20 Stanford rallied for a 38-20 victory over No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday night.
The night couldn’t have gone much better for the Cardinal (9-3, No. 21 CFP), who got the help they needed when Washington beat Washington State 41-14 in the Apple Cup to send Stanford to the Pac-12 title game. The Cardinal finished tied for first in the North with the Huskies but won the head-to-head matchup to take the tiebreaker.
“I was just so worried about this game,” Costello said. “At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less about that. Now I’m stoked that we have that opportunity.”
It didn’t seem like that opportunity would come after Stanford lost back-to-back games to Southern California and San Diego State in September to fall to 1-2. But the Cardinal have won eight of nine since then with a boost from the change at quarterback to Costello and now get a rematch against USC in the conference championship game.
“We sat here at 1-2 with a lot of doubt and some of it was internal,” coach David Shaw said. “We had to ask ourselves a lot of questions, change some pieces around on our end.”
The one constant was Bryce Love, who capped a memorable regular season by running for 125 yards on a gimpy ankle.
But Costello was the star of the offense for a change by throwing for 176 yards and delivering the four scores. Stanford has won seven of nine in the series, including the last five at home against the Fighting Irish (9-3, No. 8).
Notre Dame had a meltdown in the fourth quarter with two turnovers in the opening minutes and was dealt a serious blow in its hopes for making a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The game took a dramatic turn in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter as Stanford turned a 20-17 deficit into a 38-20 lead in a span of 3:36 early in the fourth.
It started when Costello found Kaden Smith down the middle for a 19-yard score on third down that gave Stanford the lead for good. Brandon Wimbush then was intercepted by Curtis Robinson on the first play of the ensuing drive.
The Cardinal needed just three plays to turn that into another TD when Costello found Dalton Schultz in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard score.
C.J. Sanders then fumbled the kickoff for Notre Dame and Cameron Scarlett put the game away with 3-yard run.
“We turned a good game into a not so good game by turning the ball over,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said.
NOTRE DAME: The Irish offense didn’t do much outside of two long touchdown passes by Wimbush: an 83-yarder to Kevin Stepherson and a 75-yarder to Equanimeous St. Brown on the opening play of the second half. Notre Dame had just one sustained scoring drive. The Irish got a field goal after Chris Finke’s 41-yard punt return despite losing 2 yards on the drive and also had a 15-play, 68-yard drive in the first half to set up a field goal by Justin Yoon.
STANFORD: The Cardinal showed they are a much more potent team when they have a downfield passing game to complement Love’s big-play runs. Costello frequently stretched the field, including three long throws to Smith.
NOTRE DAME: Bowl game.
STANFORD: Play USC in Pac-12 title game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Friday.