Luck, No. 4 Stanford deliver strong arguments - NBC Sports

Luck, No. 4 Stanford deliver strong arguments
Heisman candidate throws 4 TD passes to beat ND; Cardinal hoping for BCS bowl
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Andrew Luck, right, and Ryan Hewitt celebrate after Luck threw a touchdown pass to Coby Fleener during the fourth quarter.
November 29, 2011, 9:11 pm

Andrew Luck walked back into the overcrowded home locker room at Stanford Stadium, greeted by hugs and handshakes and serenaded with a chant that suited him just perfectly.

"Macho, Macho man!" teammates bellowed, singing the lyrics to the Village People's famous song. "I want to be a Macho man!"

Only one has earned that title on The Farm.

Luck set the school record for the most career touchdown passes and eclipsed his own single-season mark, throwing for 233 yards and four scores to lead fourth-ranked Stanford past No. 22 Notre Dame 28-14 in his home finale Saturday night.

Luck topped John Elway's record of 77 touchdown passes and helped the Cardinal (11-1) build a 21-0 halftime lead. He has thrown for 80 touchdowns in three years - while it took Elway all four - and 35 this season.

"There's no player in America like Andrew Luck," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Forget about the stats. Forget about the comparisons of other guys. It doesn't matter."

Luck of the Irish? Forget it.

Luck is on Stanford's side.

The victory likely vaulted the Cardinal into consideration for an at-large BCS bowl bid for the second straight year - with the Fiesta Bowl among the leading possible destinations - but they will not play for a major championship this season. The lone loss to Oregon put the Ducks in the Pac-12 title game out of the North Division and crushed Stanford's dreams of a national title.

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Notre Dame's stumbled at the finish line again.

Tommy Rees threw an interception, lost a fumble and took a bruising blow to the ribs for Notre Dame (8-4) before getting benched. Andrew Hendrix threw for 192 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score in a second-half rally for the Fighting Irish that came up short.

Keeping Stanford close gave the Irish little satisfaction.

"We didn't come here for second prize," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who would not name a starting quarterback for the bowl game. "We got off to a slow start and battled against it. To me, the scoreboard showed 28-14 and that's not good enough. The slow start put us in a tough position."

Stanford coach David Shaw shined the spotlight on his program and his quarterback's Heisman Trophy campaign with a calculated rip of the "flawed" BCS system this week. The Cardinal's play matched his words for 30 minutes.

A sloppy second half almost took everything else Stanford had worked for this season.

Kelly benched Rees in favor of Hendrix to start the third quarter, and the move pumped some life into a stagnant Irish offense. Notre Dame took advantage of pass interference and roughing the passer penalties for its first score.

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The Irish were driving for another score when Hendrix overthrew a receiver, the ball was tipped and intercepted by Michael Thomas. When Notre Dame regained possession, Hendrix was sacked by A.J. Tarpley for a 13-yard loss that sent another drive tumbling.

"Consistency is the one thing I have struggled with the most," said Hendrix, who completed 11 of 24 passes.

Only room for one quarterback to steal the show.

Luck quickly connected with Coby Fleener for a 55-yard TD pass to extend Stanford's lead to 28-7 with 5:40 remaining to put the game out of reach. Fleener also caught a 28-yard TD in the first half that gave Luck every major school touchdown record.

Stanford's Senior Day belonged to the redshirt junior.

Luck lobbed a fade to the short corner of the end zone to complete a 3-yard score to Levine Toilolo, giving Stanford a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Even he had to hold back a smile running to the sideline to a swarm of well-wishes from teammates for the records-tying toss.

But Luck lost his rhythm when a back-side blitzer closed the pocket, and he tossed a short pass that Darius Fleming intercepted and returned 35 yards. Notre Dame took over at the Stanford 10 after a 15-yard penalty on Fleener for a horse collar.

Stanford stifled the Irish on consecutive plays and forced a 20-yard field goal that David Ruffer missed wide right.

Luck followed with a 28-yard TD pass to Fleener. The tight end dragged cornerback Robert Blanton the final 10 yards into the end zone, sealing Luck's marks in the school record book.

"I think it's something I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids when I'm watching Andrew on TV someday," Fleener said. "He's got my Heisman vote."

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