Tyler Gaffney rushed for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries to lead No. 8 Stanford to a 27-20 win over No. 25 Notre Dame in Palo Alto on Saturday night.
With the win, the Cardinal improved to 10-2. The Irish fell to 8-4.
Stanford’s physical style on both sides of the ball was the key to the game as the Cardinal rushed for 261 yards on the ground while holding Notre Dame to just 64 net rushing yards.
With no ability to run the ball, the fate of the Irish was therefore in the hands of senior quarterback Tommy Rees, who helped his team rally back from a 21-6 third quarter deficit to make it a game. Rees threw short touchdown passes to TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels in the third quarter to offset a pair of Stanford field goals and the Irish trailed just 27-20 entering the final period. It looked like the game might come down to the wire, just like it did last year.
But the Stanford defense would have none of it. The unit held the Irish to 22 fourth quarter yards on three drives, with two of them ending in interceptions by Cardinal corner Wayne Lyons. And that was. Another cool, calm and efficient game by Stanford, which beat the Irish for the fourth time in five meetings.
Much of that credit can go to the toughness of Gaffney. Every time the Cardinal needed a big run or some key yardage, he got it. He’s now got 1,496 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year and has to go down as one of the best backs in Stanford history.
It’s toughness like Gaffney’s that has allowed the Cardinal to win at least 10 games in each of the last four seasons. If Stanford keeps it up, it might win its first back-to-back Rose Bowls since 1970-1971.