A phantom whistle, a pass interference penalty and a controversial fourth-down play kept the Stanford football team out of the national title game last season.
But the No. 8 Cardinal (9-2) aren’t thinking about last year’s instant classic against Notre Dame (8-3) as it prepares for the rematch at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.
“We can’t even treat this like a revenge game at all — it’s over,” Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan said. “We have a new team, they have a completely new team. But it’s still a rivalry at the same time, we’re playing for a trophy.”
The Fighting Irish tripped up the Cardinal’s national title hopes last season, winning an overtime thriller in South Bend after running back Stepfan Taylor was stuffed at the goal line on fourth down.
Replays showed that Taylor had crossed the line before his elbow hit the turf, but the referees ruled that his progress had been stopped before the ball broke the plain.
In regulation, a pass interference penalty was called against Stanford’s Terrence Brown on third-and-4, keeping the game-tying drive alive for the Irish. The Cardinal had missed an opportunity to go up by a touchdown on their previous possession after Taylor was tackled for a seven-yard loss on third-and-2 from the Notre Dame 3-yard line. After the game, Stanford coach David Shaw said someone in the stands had blown a whistle prior to the snap, causing his team to stop playing.
The win propelled the Fighting Irish into the BCS national championship game against Alabama while Stanford competed in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.
A year later, Shaw said the Cardinal lost the game because it didn’t make enough plays.
“Those critical plays that we didn’t make and that Notre Dame made was the difference in the game,” he said.
Shaw said his team learned from its mistakes, fueling an eight-game winning streak, including last season’s Rose Bowl victory.
“We didn’t blame the officials,” Shaw said. “We said, forget about all that stuff, we’ve got to play better.”
Less is at stake in this year’s contest.
Stanford earned a berth in the Pac-12 Conference title game last week by virtue of its win over Cal and Oregon’s loss to Arizona, so the contest will have no bearing on whether it has a chance to compete in the Rose Bowl for the second year in a row.
But with a win, the Cardinal can clinch its fourth straight 10-win season and Shaw said his guys can’t take the Irish lightly.
“It’s a good, physical football team that has a similar mentality that we do,” he said.