Not the way to beat a BCS team
As a general rule, if you hope to knock off the No. 4 team in the country, on the road, it's advisable to avoid back-to-back false starts on your first offensive drive followed by your starting quarterback getting pounded into the ground like a railroad spike.
The formula for defeating one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history in the emotional final home game of his career does not include fumbles, interceptions, blocked quick kicks, a slew penalties, missed 20-yard field goals and inaccurate passes to wide-open receivers in key situations.
As if defeating Andrew Luck and the Cardinal wasn't tough enough, the 22nd-ranked Irish ratcheted up the degree of difficulty before succumbing 28-14 on Saturday night Stanford Stadium.
"We got off to a bad start," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We battled our butts off but against a good football team that's not good enough."
If this was a game that would help define Notre Dame's season, well, consider it defined. The Irish (8-4) have frequently been careless with the football this season and were again. Fair or not, that's a big part of this team's legacy until further notice.
"You don't come to Notre Dame to be 8-4," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We came to Notre Dame to be the best."
A season that started with Tommy Rees coming off the bench to replace Dayne Crist at halftime of the season opener ended with Rees being benched at halftime of the season finale.
Rees has a miserable first half, which was largely a product of Notre Dame's inability to slow down Stanford's pass rush. The Irish offensive line entered the game ranked seventh in the country in sacks allowed but virtually every time Rees dropped back to pass it looked like a jailbreak.
The sophomore was temporarily injured after outside linebacker Chase Thomas ground him into the turf on the first series of the game. He remained in the game but appeared rattled after taking more big hits from Stanford (11-1) defenders. He was stripped and fumbled. He threw an interception and had two others dropped. His quick kick on fourth down was blocked and traveled only five yards. He was inaccurate when he did have time on at least two occasions before being replaced by Andrew Hendrix at halftime.
"We felt getting the ball on the perimiter with some of their loaded box looks would help us out," Kelly said in explaining his decision to play Hendrix, who is a better runner.
Hendrix completed 11 of 24 passes for 192 yards with one interception and one touchdown. He also ran for 53 yards on 12 carries.
Whether Rees, Hendrix or freshman Everett Golson is the starting quarterback for next year's season opener against Navy is anybody's guess.
"Anything is possible," Kelly said when asked if Rees or Hendrix would start in the bowl game.
Two subpar games against Oregon and Cal had somewhat diminished Luck's Heisman stock, but he was as efficient as ever in completing 20 of 30 passes for 233 and four touchdowns.
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