After another wet, windy, heartbreaking trip to Notre Dame, the Stanford football team finds itself in familiar position. In 2012, the Cardinal had already lost at Washington, then fell to seventh-ranked Notre Dame in overtime, 20-17.
Head coach David Shaw challenged his players to win-out, and that's exactly what they did. Stanford closed with eight-consecutive victories, beating UCLA, 27-24, in the Pac-12 Championship Game, then capped the season with a 20-14 win against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
This year, the Cardinal dropped a 13-10 decision to USC on a late field goal, then lost Saturday to the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish, 17-14, on a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 remaining. Gut punches, to be sure.
Now, Stanford must regroup to play host to an explosive Washington State offense on Friday night and position itself for favorable postseason positioning. Certainly, anything is possible, as evidenced by this week's stunning turn of events that saw four of the top six teams and 11 of the top 25 in the Associated Press fall.
"We can't let this be a speed bump," said Cardinal senior outside linebacker Kevin Anderson after Saturday's game.
In the wild and crazy Pac-12 North, Cal is the surprise leader at 4-1 (2-1) followed by Oregon 4-1 (1-1), Oregon State 4-1 (1-1) and Stanford 3-2 (1-1). Surprise Arizona tops the Pac-12 South at 5-0 (2-0) after shocking second-ranked Oregon in Eugene on Thursday night.
Stanford plays four of its last seven games on the road, including trips to Arizona State, Oregon, Cal and UCLA.
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In the latest statistics released by the NCAA on Sunday, the Cardinal slipped to No. 2 in total defense behind Louisville. Stanford is allowing 232.4 yards/game, while the Louisville is giving up 230.2. Stanford remains first in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 8.6 points.
Although the numbers look good, in each of Stanford's two defeats this season, both were the result of late-game defensive lapses. That is something the Cardinal must correct to reach its postseason goals.
"We have to play 60 minutes," said senior strong safety Jordan Richards. "We can't play 58 or 59."
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Offensively, Stanford struggled against a physical Notre Dame defense, although weather was a factor. The Cardinal was out-gained 370-205 in total yards and averaged only 3.0 per play, its lowest mark since 2006. Stanford managed only 47 yards rushing -- a 1.5-yard average. The last time the Cardinal was held under 50 yards rushing was on Oct. 27, 2007, at Washington.
"They were about what we expected," said senior running back Remound Wright, who gave Stanford the lead with 3:01 remaining on an 11-yard touchdown run. "We didn't execute. We had chances to make plays. We stopped ourselves."
It was a homecoming for Wright, who grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind. He led the team with eight rushes for 29 yards.
"It was exciting," he said. "It's something I've been looking forward to since I went to Stanford. I was trying to control my excitement all week so that I didn't peak too early, especially close to game time. I recognized faces in the crowd and faces on the other team."
Wright's touchdown run was only the second by a Cardinal running back this season. Fullback Patrick Skov produced the other against USC.
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Extra Points . . . Stanford slipped to 25th in the latest AP rankings . . . Senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery was held in check with four catches for 12 yards and rushed five times for 16 yards. He finished with 68 all-purpose yards, snapping a streak of nine-straight games of 100-plus all-purpose yards . . . Fifth-year senior inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley led the Cardinal with nine tackles . . . senior Kevin Anderson from Palo Alto High had two sacks, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries, while fifth-year senior defensive end Henry Anderson collected a career-high eight tackles and had three quarterback hurries . . . Stanford scored touchdowns on both of its red-zone opportunities . . . The Cardinal offense was 5 of 16 on third- down conversions, while Irish were 6 of 18 . . . Stanford was penalized nine times for 82 yards, while Notre Dame was flagged once for 10 yards.
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Quotable . . . "Losing is losing, and when you're in sports, you win and you lose. We've won more than we've lost, but every single loss hurts." -- Stanford head coach David Shaw