To all those billing a meeting of No. 7 Stanford and No. 8 Notre Dame as a heavyweight matchup, congrats because that’s a spot on description of the way the two rivals played in the first half on Saturday night.
The Irish did all they could to keep the offense rolling from last week’s big win but ran into a counterpunch from the Cardinal on just about every drive as the home team took a 21-14 lead into the locker room in South Bend with a whole bunch of College Football Playoff hopes hanging in the balance the rest of the way.
Making his second start of the season, quarterback Ian Book continued to look impressive throwing the football and went 12-of-14 for 149 yards through the first two quarters. While he was forced to move around the pocket a little more than he did against Wake Forest last week, the promising signal-caller was able to find Nic Weishar for a six-yard touchdown early and Chase Claypool for another with the clock winding down late. Book also scrambled several times for 27 yards as well.
The Notre Dame ground game benefitted from the defense having to defend things from the air. Tailback Dexter Williams (99 yards total) hit the jets right up the middle on his first touch of the season that appropriately became the first score of the game, capping off an 85 yard drive in the end zone. It was quite a moment for the senior, who missed time earlier this year with a suspension but seemingly had no issues taking a bigger share of snaps due to the absence of Jafar Armstrong.
Opposite number Bryce Love was not one to be upstaged under the lights however and promptly answered with a long run past the goal line of his own, making a sharp cut to score from 39 yards out in the first quarter and showing a bit of burst that hasn’t really been there for the Heisman runner-up so far this year. The tailback finished the half with 69 yards and appears to be playing off the Cardinal passing attack well.
Speaking of that attack, K.J. Costello appeared to really find success on intermediate routes while racking up 130 yards on 17 attempts. While he spread the ball around for the most part, it was no surprise to see him find jumpball machine JJ Arcega-Whiteside for a touchdown throw — with the massive wideout straight up posting up a defensive back for what seemed like his millionth score in that manner in 2018.
This is game is more than living up to the early billing and is shaping up to be yet another classic between two rivals who have staged their fair share of those games over the years. An inside track to the College Football Playoff awaits the winner so there should be a fun second half in store on NBC upcoming.