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Fighting Irish fight back at line

Notre Dame stops Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor short of a touchdown on the final play.

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Notre Dame stops Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor short of a touchdown on the final play.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame knew what was coming. Stanford doesn't get cute inches from the goal line.

And after three years of getting pushed around by the Cardinal, the Fighting Irish pushed back, winning their biggest shoving match all season.

Or did they?

A wall of Notre Dame defenders stopped Stepfan Taylor inches from the end zone on fourth down in overtime and the seventh-ranked Irish remained unbeaten with a 20-13 victory against the No. 17 Cardinal on a soggy Saturday.

Taylor went up the middle and was knocked back, but he kept reaching and turning with bodies under him. His knee never hit the ground before he reached the ball across the goal line. But officials ruled it was too late. The whistle had blown, so the play was stopped.

Taylor finished with 102 yards on 28 carries. He needed 103.

The celebration had to wait for a replay review. Then Irish fans who weren't already on the field spilled out of the stands, and Notre Dame was 6-0 for the first time since 2002.

"Physically, we controlled the line of scrimmage," Irish coach Brian Kelly said of the last play. "Classic. Classic goal-line stand."

Stanford coach David Shaw wasn't so sure.

"I didn't get a view of the last play," Shaw said. "Stepfan swore to me that he got in. That he put the ball over the goal line on the second effort. The officials looked at it and they said he didn't get in, so he didn't get in."

TJ Jones made a reaching 7-yard touchdown catch from Tommy Rees on the first overtime possession to give the Fighting Irish a lead.

Stanford responded by driving to first and goal at the 4.

Behind his strong offensive line, Taylor ran for 1 on first, 2 on second and about a foot on third down. That left one play from inside the 1 and Notre Dame, led by linebacker Carlos Calabrese, moved Taylor backward.

The Cardinal had won three straight meetings, physically dominating the Irish, with Andrew Luck at the helm.

Rees relieved Everett Golson late in the fourth quarter, after Golson took a helmet to the head during a tying field goal drive late in the fourth.

"We knew they were going to run the ball," said Irish linebacker Manti Te'o, who made 11 tackles. "We knew that basically No. 33 (Taylor) was going to have the ball. So everybody had to do their job."

The Cardinal will head back home thinking they did their jobs, too.

"I thought he got in on the play before that, but it was a bunch of tough runs, a bunch of tough plays," Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes said. "It was a close play."

Fighting Irish fight back at line 10/13/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 13, 2012 11:55pm]

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