Stanford’s stout rushing defense will challenge Notre Dame’s runners
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media November 26, 2013 8:45PM
SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 23: Tarean Folson #25 of the Notre Dame Fighting is lifted by teammates after scoring a touchdown with George Atkinson III #4 against the Brigham Young Cougars at Notre Dame Stadium on November 23, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: November 27, 2013 12:20AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Coach Brian Kelly pointed out some areas of emphasis for Saturday’s game (6 p.m., Fox-32) against No. 8 Stanford.
“One turnover or less, that’s got to happen,” Kelly said. “Number two, there’s got to be a running game, an effective running game as part of it. From a defensive standpoint, eliminate big plays. If we eliminate big plays — we can give up, eight or nine or 10 (yards) — but eliminate big-play touchdowns.”
It’s that middle key, establishing a running game, that few opponents have figured out against the Cardinal.
Stanford ranks third in rushing defense, surrendering 89.5 yards per game.
“We’ve got a good scheme. It’s a multiple scheme. We have subtle adjustments, subtle movements by our guys up front,” Stanford coach David Shaw said.
Passing is prominent in the Pac-12 and Stanford ranks 101st in passing defense, but the numbers defending the rush shouldn’t be dismissed.
Only three Cardinal foes have rushed for more than 100 yards. Utah was the most recent, finishing with 181 in a 27-21 upset victory on Oct. 12. Each of Stanford’s last five opponents failed to crack 100. Oregon State had 17 yards on 24 rushes on Oct. 26.
Notre Dame is coming off one of its best rushing performances. The Irish had 235 rushing yards, including a career-high 117 from Cam McDaniel, in its 23-13 victory against BYU. It marked the third time this season the team has topped 200.
“Notre Dame is big up front, is physical up front,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘They are not one of those teams that if they don’t run it successfully early, they are going to get away from the run. It is part of their identity.”
NOTE: Center Nick Martin has an MCL tear and will miss spring camp.