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Three and Out: Everett Golson's late TD pass lifts Irish over Stanford

Everett Golson's fourth-down touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter lifted No. 9 Notre Dame over No. 14 Stanford.

For anyone who missed Notre Dame-Stanford, you didn’t miss much. There’s often ugly football in rainy weather, and that’s exactly what happened in South Bend between two teams that struggled to get into the end zone. But a clutch, two-minute drive from the Irish late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in Notre Dame's 17-14 win.

Here are three thoughts from the game:

1. Everett Golson didn’t look great, but good enough to win

When he fumbled early before throwing a pick on the 2-yard line, there were calls for Everett Golson’s head. For all his success this season, he has struggled with fumbles. But his final line was impressive (20 for 43, 241 yards, two touchdowns; seven carries for 34 yards, including one 33-yard scamper that set up Notre Dame’s first touchdown), as was his final pass of the game. On 4th-and-11 with 1:09 to play, Golson sidestepped a pass rush and found Ben Koyack in the corner for a 23-yard, game-winning touchdown, giving Notre Dame a 17-14 lead. That drive was aided by a pass interference call on Stanford that moved the ball to the Stanford 22, but credit the quarterback for keeping his cool and leading the Irish on a 9-play, 65-yard scoring drive.

Also worth noting: Golson is now 15-1 as a starter.

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2. The Pac-12’s postseason is in trouble

With Oregon’s loss to unranked Arizona Thursday night, UCLA’s shaky wins over average teams (excluding Arizona State), and Stanford’s two losses, 5-0 Arizona might be the Pac-12’s best hope at getting into the inaugural College Football Playoff. Stanford would have had a case with a win in South Bend because at least the team it fell to in September (USC) was ranked at the time. But now, with the Pac-12 a mess, can anyone emerge unscathed from the West Coast?

3. Stanford’s offense is ugly

Every negative thing you’ve heard or read about the Cardinal’s offense is true. Stanford was dreadful with the ball in its hands on Saturday, totaling just 204 yards. In the third quarter alone, the Cardinal had a measly 26 yards. They were mostly terrible in the red zone and quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for only 158 yards and two interceptions. Ty Montgomery, the Cardinal’s dynamic receiver/returner/sometimes-runner, looked pedestrian, compiling just 14 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving. Before kickoff, Stanford coach David Shaw said the Cardinal’s offense had been “productive but sloppy.” It wasn't much different Saturday, and it cost them the game.

Stanford hangs its hat on being tough defensively, and it’s a fitting description for the Cardinal. It keeps them in a lot of games but if Stanford is going to defend its Pac-12 title, the Cardinal better figure out how to score on a regular basis.