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Notre Dame

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Associated Press photos
In overtime, Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor is stopped short of the goal line on fourth down by a host of Notre Dame defenders as the Irish’s KeiVarae Russell, left, celebrates Saturday in South Bend.
Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13

Last stand lifts Irish

Notre Dame improves to 6-0 with goal-line stop in overtime

Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones gets up after catching the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.

– Notre Dame withstood everything thrown at it Saturday in a 20-13 overtime win over Stanford at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish withstood near crippling turnovers from their starting quarterback, then they withstood losing him altogether on a helmet-to-helmet hit.

Notre Dame overcame a deficit for the first time this year, doing it twice.

It overcame a negative play to start overtime by scoring a touchdown and putting the pressure on Stanford.

Then when it counted the most, the Irish withstood not one, but two, plays from inside the 1-yard line by the Cardinal in overtime.

And finally, their last stop withstood a review as No. 7 Notre Dame (6-0) ended a three-game losing streak to No. 17 Stanford (4-2) and put itself in position for a spot near the top of the BCS poll when it is released tonight.

“It was a nervous feeling,” Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt said of the review of the Irish’s final stop of Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor. “In my mind, I was thinking, ‘No, no, no. They didn’t get it.’ I stayed confident the whole time, never once went back.”

The Irish avoided taking a step back with the goal-line stand after taking a seven-point lead with the first overtime possession as quarterback Tommy Rees, who replaced injured starter Everett Golson, found TJ Jones for a 7-yard touchdown pass.

The Cardinal got to the 4-yard line then kept the ball in Taylor’s hands as the senior ran for a yard, then 2, then a few inches, before finally being stopped as he tried to twist, turn and push his way across the goal line on the final play.

“The goal line, the game is on the line, that’s where it’s at,” said Irish linebacker Manti Te’o, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles. “We have a lot of big-time players on our defense, and they stepped up big time.”

Before the defense could step up, Rees had to step in after Golson was knocked out of the game on a helmet-to-helmet hit with the Irish trailing 13-10 and 3:27 left to play.

Rees moved the Irish to the Cardinal’s 5 to set up Kyle Brindza’s game-tying 22-yard field goal with 20 seconds left. And in overtime, after being sacked for a 7-yard loss on the first play, the junior quarterback completed a 9-yard pass to DaVaris Daniels, a crucial 16-yard pass to Theo Riddick on third-and-8 to move to the 7 and then he found Jones for the game-winning touchdown.

Rees completed all four of his passes for 43 yards with a touchdown in relief of Golson, who overcame crucial fumbles to complete 12 of 24 passes for 141 yards with a touchdown. Golson also ran for 41 yards.

“He’s an incredible young man that he can stay so focused in the game, know what’s going on during the game,” coach Brian Kelly said of Rees. “He’s just a very smart football player.”

Notre Dame, which hadn’t trailed this season until Saturday, overcame deficits twice. After entering halftime behind 10-3, the Irish took over in the third quarter by gaining more than 100 yards but no points.

But 45 seconds into the fourth, tight end Tyler Eifert, a Bishop Dwenger graduate, came down with a 24-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 10.

Stanford responded with a 27-yard field goal for a 13-10 lead, only to allow Brindza to tie the game with his second field goal of the day before the Irish won in overtime.

“We went ahead and took the game, and we won the game for ourselves,” Eifert said. “We didn’t wait for them to make a mistake. That’s huge.”