Notre Dame vs. Stanford: Top 10 Moments in Rivalry History

Connor Killoren@@Connor_KillorenSenior Analyst INovember 25, 2013

Notre Dame vs. Stanford: Top 10 Moments in Rivalry History

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It may not possess the fanfare or pageantry of a high-stakes college football rivalry, but the Battle for the Legends Trophy has a history of dramatic, tension-filled moments.

    The two programs first met in the 1925 Rose Bowl but played just three times between that matchup and the final pre-modern meeting in 1964. However, the Irish and Cardinal commenced their modern rivalry in 1988, which has been played annually since.

    As of last season's thrilling showdown—a 20-13 Notre Dame victory in overtime—the Irish lead the series 17-9.

    As you can see, this particular rivalry isn't of the lengthy, historic variety but has been jam-packed with intense matchups in its relatively short history.

1963: Stanford's 1st Win of the Series

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    When: Oct. 26, 1963

    Where: Stanford Stadium

    Result: Stanford 24, Notre Dame 14


    After having defeated fellow West Coast foes USC and UCLA in consecutive weeks prior to their meeting with Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., the Irish fell to the Indians, which was the school's nickname until 1975.

    The game was the lone trip to the West Coast for Notre Dame during the 1963 season and marked Stanford's first-ever victory in the series.

    The defeat marked the third loss of the season for the Irish, who ultimately finished the season with an abysmal 2-7 record. Head coach Hugh Devore had returned to coach his alma mater for the first time since 1945 when he replaced interim coach Edward McKeever.

2009: Charlie Weis' Final Game at Notre Dame

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    When: Nov. 28, 2009

    Where: Stanford Stadium

    Result: Stanford 45, Notre Dame 38


    With the Irish's record sitting at 6-5 entering this regular-season finale, former head coach Charlie Weis' future at Notre Dame was in serious question.

    While it's difficult to decide whether a victory at Stanford would have given Weis one more season, the Irish's shoddy defensive performance was enough to earn Weis the ax. The Cardinal amassed 280 total rushing yards en route to a 45-38 victory that dropped the Irish to 6-6 and propelled the program into the search for its next head coach.

    One oft-forgotten aspect of this game was the performance of former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck (you may have heard of him), who completed 14 of 20 pass attempts for 198 yards.

1992: Stanford Delivers Irish's Lone Loss of the Season

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    When: Oct. 3, 1992

    Where: Notre Dame Stadium

    Result: No. 18 Stanford 33, No. 6 Notre Dame 16


    In the thick of the national championship race, Notre Dame entered this showdown with a 3-0-1 record, having tied then-No. 5 Michigan 17-17 three weeks prior. 

    Despite the tie, the Irish remained national title contenders.

    However, Stanford would ruin Notre Dame's championship aspirations with a 33-16 upset victory behind the masterful offensive play-calling of legendary head coach Bill Walsh, who was in his second stint as the head coach at Stanford.

    Interestingly enough, this edition of the rivalry was the first in which both teams entered the game as Top 25 teams.

2008: Stanford's Near-Comeback Victory Spoiled

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    When: Oct. 4, 2008

    Where: Notre Dame Stadium

    Result: Notre Dame 28, Stanford 21


    After building a comfortable 28-7 lead by the four-minute, 30-second mark of the third quarter, Notre Dame nearly experienced an implosion of disastrous proportions. 

    The Cardinal mounted a hearty comeback effort, staging two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to come within one touchdown of the Irish. With 3:23 remaining in regulation, Stanford began its penultimate drive at its own 3-yard line, only to turn the ball over on downs after failing to pick up a first down on 4th-and-15 from its own 10-yard line.

    Notre Dame's defense having allowed Stanford back into the game was yet another poor showing by the unit in a long line of unsatisfactory performances during the Weis era.

1925: Rose Bowl Marks 1st-Ever Meeting Between Notre Dame and Stanford

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    When: Jan. 1, 1925

    Where: Rose Bowl

    Result: Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10


    The first meeting between Notre Dame and Stanford also marked the final ride for the Irish's legendary Four Horsemen: Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher.

    The meeting was also the first bowl game in Notre Dame program history, as well as the program's first-ever trip to the West Coast.

    The Irish took advantage of eight Stanford turnovers, three of which were converted for Irish scores. Layden returned two interceptions for touchdowns while also posting a three-yard scoring rumble.

    Lost in the mix of the game was it being the foundation for the Irish's rivalry with USC.

2007: Notre Dame Ends Nightmare Season on a Positive Note

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    When: Nov. 24, 2007

    Where: Stanford Stadium

    Result: Notre Dame 21, Stanford 14


    Deadlocked at 14 entering halftime of the teams' 2007 meeting, the Irish were seeking to avoid their first two-win season since 1963. 

    Behind a solid second-half defensive effort and a game-winning drive midway through the fourth quarter, Notre Dame held on to beat Stanford 21-14 and end a nightmare season on a two-game winning streak.

    Former running back Robert Hughes was the game's unofficial Most Valuable Player, amassing 136 rushing yards on 18 carries to go along with what proved to be the game's final score. Former receiver David Grimes would have pushed for that honor had his heroic effort on what appeared to be a phenomenal touchdown reception not been reversed after review.

1990: Unranked Stanford Upends No. 1-Ranked Notre Dame

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    When: Oct. 6, 1990

    Where: Notre Dame Stadium

    Result: Stanford 36, No. 1 Notre Dame 31


    Two seasons after winning its 11th national championship, Notre Dame entered the 1990 season hopeful of recapturing the magic of that 1988 season.

    The Irish were well on their way to doing so, entering their game against Stanford ranked No. 1 nationally. But Notre Dame's national championship aspirations were dashed by their own blunders, as the Irish botched three punt-return opportunities, two of which led to Stanford touchdowns.

    When asked what the victory meant to him, former Stanford head coach Dennis Green was jubilant, per Michael Wilbon, formerly of The Washington Post.

    "It's not just beating the No. 1 team," Green said. "It's beating Notre Dame, the No. 1 team, in South Bend. Is this the highlight of my career? Oh, yes. Yes, yes."

2005: Notre Dame Narrowly Avoids Disaster, Hangs on to BCS At-Large Berth

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    When: Nov. 26, 2005

    Where: Stanford Stadium

    Result: Notre Dame 38, Stanford 31


    At 8-2, Notre Dame required a victory against Stanford to qualify for a BCS at-large bid. And the Cardinal nearly spoiled that possibility. 

    With 2:15 remaining in regulation, Stanford took a 31-30 lead, placing the Irish's BCS hopes on life support. But Irish quarterback Brady Quinn led the comeback effort, leading his team 80 yards in 29 seconds for what would turn out to be the game-winning score.

    Leading 36-31 after running back Darius Walker's six-yard touchdown scamper, Walker put the game on ice with a successful two-point-conversion rush.

    The victory earned Notre Dame its first BCS bowl berth since 2001, as the Irish would go on to lose 34-20 to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

1999: Stanford Ends Notre Dame's Season in Dramatic Fashion

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    When: Nov. 27, 1999

    Where: Stanford Stadium

    Result: Stanford 40, Notre Dame 37


    The Bob Davie era at Notre Dame continued its downward spiral, as the Irish suffered their first losing season since 1986. 

    The Irish defense was more than porous, allowing scoring passes of 62 and 38 yards to Stanford receiver Troy Walters. The offense wasn't any better, with the unit's low point being a fumble taken 37 yards for a touchdown by Stanford's Aaron Focht.

    Despite the sloppy play, Notre Dame tied the game at 37 with 1:32 remaining in regulation.

    But another costly mistake, this time a roughing-the-passer penalty, set up Stanford kicker Mike Biselli's game-winning 22-yard field goal as time expired.

2012: Irish's Epic Overtime Goal-Line Stand Preserves Undefeated Season

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    When: Oct. 13, 2012

    Where: Notre Dame Stadium

    Result: Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13 (OT)


    With ESPN's College GameDay in town, then-seventh-ranked Notre Dame was seeking its sixth win of the season, as well as to remain in the thick of the national title race. 

    But on a cold, dreary, rain-soaked afternoon in South Bend, Ind., the Irish's championship aspirations seemingly hung in the balance for the duration of the game.

    After a defensive struggle during regulation, the teams entered the first and only overtime period knotted at 13. Irish quarterback Tommy Rees connected with receiver TJ Jones for the go-ahead score, leaving it to the defense to seal the game.

    Having reached the Notre Dame 4-yard line after a 13-yard rush, Stanford tailback Stepfan Taylor was denied four times, with his failure to convert on 4th-and-goal from the Irish 1-yard line being the deciding sequence.