SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ian Book and Miles Boykin, the heroes of Notre Dame’s Citrus Bowl victory on New Year’s Day, worked their magic once again and a stifling defensive line chipped in as the No. 8 Irish broke a three-game losing streak to No. 7 Stanford with a 38-17 victory Saturday night.
Book threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns, including an 8-yard TD to Boykin, who had career highs in receptions (11) and yardage (144).
“Our chemistry is coming along but he’s such a good player and I love throwing to him,” said Book, whose 55-yard touchdown pass to Boykin while replacing an ineffective Brandon Wimbush provided the Irish a 21-17 victory over LSU in Orlando last January.
Stanford coach David Shaw was impressed by Book, who hails from Northern California and was Notre Dame’s starting quarterback for the second straight week after replacing Wimbush again.
“(Notre Dame has) a quarterback right now that’s outstanding,” Shaw said. “He’s athletic enough to get himself out of trouble. Quarterbacks like this, if you don’t get them down on the ground, it’s gonna hurt you.”
Boykin’s touchdown reception gave the Irish a 31-17 lead over the Cardinal with 8:16 remaining. After Notre Dame’s Te’von Coney intercepted Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello, Book threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Alize Mack 14 seconds later to seal the victory.
Book’s other touchdown passes were a 6-yarder to tight end Nic Weishar in the first quarter and a 10-yarder to Chase Claypool just before halftime.
“A great win,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “I like the fact that we finished the game. We started fast but we finished. When you are looking at your team, you see a resolve you’re wanting to see with your team.”
The Irish (5-0) totaled 550 yards, including 272 yards on 55 carries. Senior Dexter Williams, playing in his first game of the season after missing the first four for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, rushed for a career-high 161 yards on 21 carries, the first a 45-yard touchdown that gave Notre Dame a 7-0 lead.
“I’m really proud of his growth and maturity,” Kelly said. “If he wasn’t growing as a young man and as a student-athlete at Notre Dame, he wouldn’t have the chance.”
The Irish limited Stanford (4-1) to 229 yards on 51 plays.
Costello threw for just 174 yards and was hurried all night by Notre Dame’s front four, which got four sacks and two hurries from 6-foot-7, 305-pound senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.
“You can’t block him (Tillery) one-on-one and he showed that tonight,” Kelly said.
Bryce Love, last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up, scored on a 39-yard TD for Stanford, but finished with just 73 yards on 17 carries before limping to the locker room with just over 11 minutes remaining.
Stanford: After missing his first three passes of the game, Costello connected on his next nine before finishing with 130 first-half yards on 11-of-17 passing but was hurried by Notre Dame’s defensive front four in the second half. With Love also struggling on the ground, the Cardinal will have to address the blocking issues of their offensive line.
“It’s just hard to swallow,” Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside said of the offensive struggles. “As a team we pride ourselves on being physically dominant. Where do we go from here? There’s no magic formula. We go back to work.”
Notre Dame: The Irish came within one yard of having three players total 100 yards or more in the first half. Book, who totaled 176 yards on 25 plays, was 12-of-14 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Eight of the completions for 106 yards went to Boykin. Williams rushed for 99 yards on nine carries, including a 45-yard touchdown on his first carry of the season.
“I’ve been so excited to play for so long,” said Williams. “Then I got even more excited as I was playing tonight. My mom has been here since the Michigan game so that has helped me stay focused.”
With Jafar Armstrong unavailable after suffering a knee infection during the week, the Notre Dame running attack would lose junior Tony Jones Jr. late in the third quarter with a leg injury. Jones finished with 40 yards on 10 carries.
That left much of the running responsibility to Williams.
“Dexter was very juiced up and brings a lot of emotion to the game,” Book said. “There couldn’t have been a better week for him to come back.”
Kelly said Armstrong will have to have surgery to clean up the infection and will miss a couple of weeks.
Jones has an ankle sprain and will be examined Sunday. The Irish lost left guard Alex Bars with a knee injury that will need an MRI.
The Notre Dame defensive line clearly dominated the Stanford offensive line, led by Tillery’s four sacks and two quarterback hurries.
“This is just the start,” said Tillery, who was given a game ball after having the first four-sack game by an Irish player since Victor Abiamiri had four against Stanford on Nov. 26, 2005. “This defense can still get so much better. This is special because we’ve never beaten Stanford since I’ve been here.”
Defensive end Khalid Kareem, who limped off early in the game, returned to finish with a quarterback sack and a hurry as Notre Dame had five sacks of Costello and four QB hurries.
Stanford returns home to face Utah on Saturday.
Notre Dame takes its second road trip Saturday to Virginia Tech.