Notre Dame Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 7 Win over Stanford
You can't always explain the whys and hows of a victory. Sometimes, it's just meant to be. That was the case on Saturday afternoon in South Bend, as Notre Dame needed more than 60 minutes to dispose of a very good Stanford team.
It took overtime, two quarterbacks, and perhaps a bit of luck to get to 6-0.
Obviously, it wasn't the prettiest of performances on a day which did not allow for many big offensive plays. Notre Dame didn't make many, but when it did, it was at the right time, just as the team has all season long.
Before moving on to next week's game against BYU, let's take a final look back at the winners and losers from the memorable win over the Cardinal.
Winner: Tommy Rees
The closer came through once again, as a concussion to Everett Golson required the "wily veteran" of the Notre Dame quarterbacks to lead both the game-tying and game-winning drives.
Having Rees' closer role as a defined position seemed silly after his first relief appearance against Purdue, but it has now proven its worth on multiple occasions.
Notre Dame probably isn't going to go to Norman or Los Angeles and win with Rees playing a full game, but having him on-call gives Brian Kelly a safety valve that most coaches (and the manager of the Washington Nationals) can only dream of having at their disposal.
Winner: T.J. Jones
It's a critical year for the junior, who has shown flashes of ability but has lacked the consistency of a No. 1 receiver. The stat sheet might not show it, with just four catches for 52 yards, but he caught the game-winning touchdown pass on a poor throw from Tommy Rees.
He also made a sliding catch on a third down throw from Everett Golson in the first half to keep a drive alive. Jones isn't the most talented wide receiver on the Irish roster, but he's becoming the most reliable—a moniker that seemed highly unlikely before the season.
Loser: Everett Golson
This isn't a critique of Golson's performance, as it was adequate given the circumstances. However, Golson again was unable to complete a close, hard-fought victory for the third time this season due to injury and/or poor play.
The questions will remain about whether Tommy Rees role should increase despite Golson showing significant progress over the past two weeks in his comfort level in the offense. Until he can play a full four quarters in a game that requires him to sustain drives and not just avoid turnovers, he won't fully get over the proverbial hump.
Winner: Matthias Farley
Farley was called upon to replace Jamoris Slaughter at strong safety after the fifth-year senior was lost for the season with a foot injury after just three games.
The converted wide receiver had his best performance to date on Saturday, intercepting a pass and registering eight tackles and a key tackle for loss that forced Stanford to settle for a field goal in the fourth quarter.
He's not to the point yet where he can play the Zeke Motta role of the defense's last line, but he's shown his versatility at both stopping the run and making plays against the pass over the past few games. He'll play a critical role in two weeks against an explosive Oklahoma offense as he continues to grow toward becoming a multi-year starter at the safety position.
Loser: The Pass Rush
This is nit-picking, especially against a team who likes to run the football, but I'd like to see more than just one sack out of the Notre Dame pass rush. Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore shared the Irish's lone sack of the afternoon, while linebacker Prince Shembo had a relatively quiet game.
There was enough of a rush to cause Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes some discomfort, but a few more negative plays could have been used on Saturday. Not every Irish opponent will be as run-heavy as the Cardinal, so expect the sack totals to come back up in the coming weeks.
Winner: Tyler Eifert
The blocking struggles of fellow tight ends Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack has forced Notre Dame to use Tyler Eifert more as a traditional tight end than it had originally planned. He had only one catch over the team's two games against Michigan State and Michigan.
However, his 57 yards on Saturday led the Irish, including a 24-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10-10.
On the ensuing drive, Eifert drew a crucial pass interference penalty to help set up a field goal that sent the game to overtime. Notre Dame needs Eifert to become more of a factor in the passing game if it hopes to stay unbeaten.
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