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Stanford keeps faint playoff hopes alive, extinguishes Irish’s in last-second win

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For both Notre Dame and Stanford, tonight’s game down on The Farm was one that each needed to keep any playoff hopes that they entertained alive.  In the end, it’s the latter that holds the lone remaining hope for the rivalry.

With both teams throwing punches on either side of the ball, it was the Cardinal that was able to withstand the body blows and leave Foster Field with a thrilling 38-36 win.  It wasn’t looking that way, though, after DeShone Kizer led the Irish on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown run with :30 left and gave the visitors a 36-35 lead.

Kevin Hogan, playing his last home game as a member of the Cardinal, proceeded to ensure he left one more indelible mark in the program’s history books.  Taking over at their own 28-yard line, a face-mask penalty on the Irish moved the ball out to the 43-yard line with :15 left.  An incomplete pass on first down was followed by the play of the game, a 27-yard Hogan-to-Devon Cajuste that put the Cardinal in field goal range; a Christian McCaffrey two-yard run positioned the Cardinal for a 45-yard field goal attempt, which Conrad Ukropina absolutely piped with no time left for the 36-35 win.

Hogan was superb throughout the night, finishing with 269 yards and four touchdown passes on 17-of-21 passing in a back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change six times.  The Irish had a pair of 100-yard runners, with Josh Adams leading the way with 168 and Kizer contributing 128.

The win improves Stanford to 10-2, and sends them into the Pac-12 championship game against USC with hopes of a playoff berth still intact, however faint they may be.  Even if the Cardinal can take down the Trojans, they would still need significant upheaval ahead of them — think Clemson, Iowa and Alabama losing their title games — in order to even begin any type of realistic playoff talk.

But still…

For Notre Dame, it’s their second loss of the season and, with no championship game to leave another impression on the committee, it appears their playoff hopes have been officially dashed.  Still, given the myriad injuries with which the Domers have had to deal, it’s a minor miracle that they were even in the playoff discussion this late in the season, and a testament to Brian Kelly and his coaching staff.

Notre Dame RB C.J. Prosise undergoing concussion protocol

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A season of injury concerns continued for Notre Dame this weekend in Pittsburgh. Running back C.J. Prosise left the win against the Panthers and is currently going through concussion protocol. It is unknown when Prosise will return to the field for the playoff-contending Irish, but head coach Brian Kelly is optimistic his top running back may not have to miss much playing time.

Prosise left the game Saturday after appearing to injure his shoulder, but he also hit his head on the ground. He did not return to the game after being taken to the locker room at Heinz Field, although Kelly only commented on Prosise’s shoulder after the game. According to College Football Talk contributor JJ Stankevitz, via CSN Chicago, Kelly said he is hopeful Prosise can return to practice at some point this week. In the meantime, Notre Dame will move forward with freshman Josh Adams carrying the football. Adams filled in nicely for the Irish by rushing for 147 yards for Notre Dame in the road win against Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame should be able to afford playing without Prosise this week with Wake Forest making the trip to South Bend. After that comes a road trip to Boston to take on Boston College in Fenway Park.

Kizer throws 5 TDs as No. 5 Notre Dame tops Pitt, 42-30

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Freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer threw five touchdowns to lead No. 5 Notre Dame (8-1) to a 42-30 victory over Pittsburgh (6-3, 4-1 ACC). The win, the largest margin of victory by either team in the series, keeps Notre Dame in the thick of the College Football Playoff conversation, and sets up a favorable run heading down the stretch of the regular season.

Notre Dame did not win this game at full strength though. Running back C.J. Prosise had to leave the game with a possible shoulder injury. There were early reports of a possible concussion, but all head coach Brian Kelly said after the game was Prosise was day-to-day. With Prosise out of action for most of the game, Josh Adams came in to lead the running game, and he did so running for 147 yards on 20 carries.

In the battle of star receivers, the nod also went to Notre Dame. Will Fuller caught seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns, compared to Pitt’s Tyler Boyd and his 84 receiving yards and one touchdown.

Notre Dame debuted in the College Football Playoff rankings as the first team out at No. 5 this week, and they could push into the top four next week after LSU or Alabama lose. It goes without saying Notre Dame is a playoff contender, and a pretty darn good one. the next two games come at home, against Wake Forest and Boston College. If all goes according to plan, that should set up a 10-1 Notre Dame in the regular season finale at Stanford in what could very well be a playoff elimination game between the Irish and Cardinal.

This was the second straight loss for the Panthers, but losing a game to Notre Dame means nothing int terms of the ACC Coastal race. Despite losing at home to UNC last week, the Panthers still have a chance to grab the division crown, although they need some help. With the Tar Heels smacking Duke at the same time this game was happening, UNC still needs to lose twice in order for Pitt to creep back to the top of the ACC Coastal, which also means Pitt needs to win their remaining conference games.

Pitt gets a week off to prepare for a road game against Duke. Pitt ends the season with home games against Louisville and Miami.

Notre Dame loses RB Tarean Folston for the season

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Notre Dame’s opening night was just about perfect. The 11th-ranked Irish dominated Texas, 38-3, winning every phase of the game. There was, however, one unfortunate postscript to an otherwise spotless evening.

Head coach Brian Kelly revealed Sunday afternoon running back Tarean Folston tore his MCL on Saturday night and will miss the rest of the season. The junior from Cocoa, Fla., left the game in the first quarter after rushing for 19 yards on three carries; he was seen on crutches later in the evening. Folston underwent an MRI Sunday morning and is now slated for surgery within the next week and a half.

As if losing a running back that combined for 1,378 yards on 5.2 yards a pop over the past two seasons isn’t bad enough, it’s doubly hurtful for the Irish considering running back Greg Bryant left the program after failing to qualify academically.

“That’s football,” Kelly told our own J.J. Stankevitz at CSN Chicago. “We’re certainly disappointed for Tarean, he’s worked so hard to get where he is. But … that’s why you try to develop depth in your program.”

C.J. Prosise posted a nice showing in Folston’s stead Saturday night, rushing 20 times for a career-high 98 yards. Freshmen Josh Adams and Dexter Williams combined to rush for 73 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

Additionally, Kelly noted safety Avery Sebastian suffered a broken foot Saturday night and will miss the next four-to-six weeks.