Stanford hits a wall at Notre Dame

The Cardinal tries four times to run through the Irish's stubborn defense in overtime and continues to be turned back.

Stanford ripped a page out of the Titanic-era playbook to help Notre Dame advance another precious step on what is suddenly becoming an improbable national title run.

Football games a century ago were brutish struggles with heavy emphasis on gouging and grunting.

Innovation was left to guys like Thomas Edison.

In 1913, however, Notre Dame exploited something called "the forward pass" to upset Army. The pass-catch combo was Gus Dorais to Knute Rockne.

The concept evolved steadily through the years — much to Alabama Coach Nick Saban's consternation — until coming to a dead stop Saturday in South Bend.

Notre Dame sealed a 20-13 overtime win in part because Stanford insisted on bludgeoning into an Irish defensive front that has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

It still hasn't.

You can argue whether Stanford actually scored on second or fourth down. If these officials can't get crucial plays correct maybe they should replace the NFL refs next time they are involved in a labor dispute.

One thing you can't argue is that Stanford bears little resemblance to the organic place where Bill Walsh's incubator once hatched hitch plays.

Notre Dame improved to 6-0 and Stanford fell to 4-2 because the Cardinal kept trying to shove a Volkswagen through a keyhole.

Jim Harbaugh brought the kind of toughness Stanford was still trying to display inside Notre Dame's five-yard line.

Except Harbaugh also had bravado and real-time intuitiveness that has been lacking since he left for the San Francisco 49ers.

David Shaw is a good man and a fine coach, yet Stanford fans have a right to wonder what's going on. In last year's Fiesta Bowl, quarterback Andrew Luck briskly drove Stanford downfield for what might have been the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State.

Instead, Shaw positioned for a game-winning field goal that was missed. Oklahoma State won in overtime.

Stanford turned conservative again last month at Washington and lost a game it should have won.

Down to Notre Dame by a touchdown in overtime, Stanford had first and goal at the Irish four-yard line.

Four times, Stanford ordered running back Stepfan Taylor into the teeth of the nation's No. 2 scoring defense.

Was anyone surprised?

Certainly Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly was not. "That's what Stanford does," he said.

Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o told everyone to meet him — four times — for a giant gang tackle at the line of scrimmage.