Associated Press

No. 21 Stanford beats No. 8 Notre Dame, advances to Pac-12 Championship

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A trio of fourth quarter touchdowns turned an already good night into a great one for Stanford, as the No. 21 Cardinal blew past No. 8 Notre Dame 38-20 to claim Stanford’s third straight win and seventh in the last nine meetings of private school powers.

Meanwhile in Seattle, No. 17 Washington’s blowout of No. 13 Washington State handed Stanford its fourth Pac-12 North championship and sent the Cardinal into a Pac-12 Championship rematch with No. 11 USC on Friday in Santa Clara.

Stanford entered the fourth quarter trailing 20-17, but a 19-yard pass from K.J. Costello to Kaden Smith handed the Cardinal the lead with 13:46 to play. Curtis Robinson intercepted Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush inside Irish territory on the first play of the ensuing possession, and Costello’s fourth touchdown pass, this one a 12-yarder to Dalton Schultz gave Stanford control of the game with 12:21 remaining.

Disaster struck Notre Dame again after C.J. Sanders fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 18-yard line, and Jordan Scarlett put the game away for Stanford with a 3-yard touchdown plunge with 10:10 remaining.

A Wimbush interception inside the Stanford end zone ended any hopes of a last-gasp comeback.

Notre Dame opened the scoring with an 83-yard snatch-and-dash connection from Wimbush to Kevin Stepherson, handing the Irish a 7-0 lead at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter. Stanford pulled even on the next drive, knifing 72 yards in five plays, the last 29 on a Trenton Irwin pass from Costello.

The Cardinal forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame’s next possession, then took the lead with a 6-play, 55-yard march, mostly on Costello’s arm. He hit J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to give Stanford a 14-7 lead with 11:29 left in the first half.

Notre Dame cut into the deficit with a 38-yard Justin Yoon field goal with 2:36 left in the half. The Irish grabbed their second lead of the night with another long throw, this one a 75-yard toss from Wimbush to Equanimeous St. Brown. After Stanford tied the game with a 24-yard Jet Toner field goal, Yoon nudged Notre Dame back in front for its final lead of the night with a 38-yard boot at the 1:23 mark of the third quarter.

Wimbush finished the night hitting hitting 11-of-27 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, with two throws accounting for 158 yards and the other 25 going for 91.

Though his numbers did not pop off the page, Bryce Love was perhaps Stanford’s MVP with a game-high 20 carries for 125 yards. Playing on a high ankle sprain, Love’s 20 totes were sprinkled in between hobbles to and from the Stanford sideline; Love would carry the ball, wait for the pain to subside and then run back on the field to carry the ball again and again and again.

While Stanford (9-3) will prepare for its rematch with the Trojans — USC won the first meeting, 42-24 Sept. 9 in Los Angeles — Notre Dame (9-3) will look to hold on its New Year’s Six bowl positioning.

Stanford leading Notre Dame in what could be a great night for the Cardinal

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Here’s the good news for No. 21 Stanford: the Cardinal carries a 14-10 lead over No. 8 Notre Dame at the half in Palo Alto. Here’s the better news: No. 17 Washington leads No. 13 Washington State at the half in Seattle, where a Huskies victory would hand Stanford the Pac-12 North championship and send the club to the Pac-12 Championship opposite No. 11 USC next week.

Notre Dame opened the scoring with an 83-yard snatch-and-dash connection from Brandon Wimbush to Kevin Stepherson, handing the Irish a 7-0 lead at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter. Stanford pulled even on the next drive, knifing 72 yards in five plays, the last 29 on a Trenton Irwin pass from K.J. Costello.

The Cardinal forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame’s next possession, then took the lead with a 6-play, 55-yard march, mostly on Costello’s arm. He hit J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to give Stanford a 14-7 lead with 11:29 left in the first half.

Notre Dame cut into the deficit with a 38-yard Justin Yoon field goal with 2:36 left in the half.

Bryce Love has been mostly quiet in playing through a high ankle sprain; he’s rushed 10 times for 31 yards to this point. Costello closed the half connecting on 9-of-14 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Wimbush has hit 7-of-14 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and leads the team with 37 yards on seven carries. Josh Adams has rushed 12 times for 27 yards.

Wimbush scores three TD’s as No. 8 Notre Dame holds off Navy

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A week after getting embarrassed on the big stage by Miami, No. 8 Notre Dame (9-2) responded by holding off an upset bid from rival Navy (6-4). Notre Dame had to gut this one out, as we have come to expect from these two teams over the years. An incomplete pass on fourth down by Navy turned the ball over to the Irish in the final minutes and Notre Dame escaped with the win.

The play was a running back pass, and Navy appeared to have the play they were hoping for. But the pass intended for Tyler Carmona from Darryl Bonner was probably a split second late and just off the mark as it fell to the ground with the game on the line.

Navy took a 17-10 lead on the Irish in the third quarter after working a nearly eight-minute drive while running 15 plays to travel 72 yards. The drive ended with a touchdown pass from Zach Abey to Craig Scott from 12 yards out on third-and-goal. The lead did not last for very long, however, as Notre Dame answered with a much quicker offensive series. Brandon Wimbush completed a 30-yard touchdown to Kevin Stepherson to tie the game just five plays later.

The Wimbush-to-Stepherson struck again for the go-ahead touchdown on their next offensive series, after Navy missed a field goal.

Wimbush ended his day with 164 passing yards and two touchdowns with 41 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Running back Josh Adams moved into fifth place in the school record book for the most all-time rushing yards as he rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries. Adams still appears to be on the Heisman Trophy’s radar. Notre Dame’s ability to make big plays helped to overcome a draining day for the Navy offense. Navy held the football for 42:42 in the game, leaving Notre Dame the football for fewer than 18 minutes. Navy quarterback Zach Abey led Navy with 87 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown (Anthony Gargiulo also had 87 rushing yards, but no touchdowns) as the Irish gave up 277 rushing yards.

Notre Dame will wrap up the regular season on the road next week against Stanford. After that, the Irish will wait to hear their bowl fate. Notre Dame is still in firm position to be selected for a New Years Six bowl game, although a shot at playing in the playoff appears to still be an incredibly long shot with little time to spare.

Navy will also be on the road next week for one more conference game. The Midshipmen take on Houston on Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving. Navy will not play for the conference championship game, but they will play one more game before the bowl season with the annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia on Dec. 9.

Pac-12 defensive stars headline Lott IMPACT Trophy semi-finalists

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The semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy have been announced, and it is quite an impressive short list of some of college football’s finest defensive talents. Among the semifinalists for the award are Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Iowa linebacker Josey Jewel. The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three semi-finalists.

The Lott IMPACT Trophy honors the nation’s best player that exhibits the qualities of former NFL All-Pro Ronnie Lott; integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community, and tenacity.

In addition to three players from the Pac-12, this year’s semifinalists include two players from the Big 12, and one player each from the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC. Notre Dame is also represented by safety Drue Tranquill. A Big Ten player has won the award each of the past two seasons with Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib winning the award in 2015 and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers receiving the award last season.

The 2017 Lott IMPACT Trophy Semi-Finalists

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Malik Jefferson, DE, Texas
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
Harrison Phillips, DL, Stanford
Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Drue Tranquill, S, Notre Dame

No. 13 Notre Dame rolling early to take big halftime lead over turnover-prone USC

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There are bad starts, and there are starts like what No. 11 USC had in the first half of their rivalry game against No. 13 Notre Dame.

Fumble on the first drive? Check. Shank a short field goal? Yep. Muff a punt? Indeed. Throw an interception. Thumbs up.

As a result, the Irish fed off an electric atmosphere in South Bend to jump out to a hot start against their intersectional rival and went to the locker room up 28-0 at halftime in a game that seems over given the way the two sides are playing at the moment.

Proving that a few weeks off were indeed plenty to get back to 100 percent, quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked sharp in taking advantage of all those USC miscues. He finished the half with two touchdown passes (one to Kevin Stepherson, the other to Equanimeous St. Brown) and ran for 76 yards and another score despite that balky foot injury that kept him out for several weeks.

Running back Josh Adams didn’t get a ton of work given all the quick end zone trips (just 14 carries), but also gave a boost to his low-key Heisman campaign by running for 68 yards and a touchdown.

As many positives as you could come up with for Notre Dame in the half, you could just about double it and come up with the number of negatives for USC. Sam Darnold had one of his worst halves in cardinal and gold, fumbling on the opening drive and throwing an interception late in the second quarter. He wound up with 107 yards as the only source of offense for the Trojans after Ronald Jones was bottled up to the tune of just five yards on seven carries.

USC has authored several second half comebacks already this year but, based on the way they played so far in Notre Dame Stadium, they’re going to need a comeback just to avoid getting blown out. The flip side is another strong showing like that and all the College Football Playoff talk surrounding the Irish will start to become very, very real come Sunday.