SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The whistles went against Stanford.
The No. 17 Cardinal thought Stepfan Taylor was in the end zone before the whistle blew on the game's last play, one in which officials ruled he was stopped just before his hand with the ball in it touched down in the end zone as seventh-ranked Notre Dame held on to win 20-13 in overtime Saturday to keep its undefeated season going.
Stanford coach David Shaw said he didn't get a good view of the play.
"Stepfan swore to me that he got in, that he got over the goal line on second effort. The officials looked at it and said he didn't get in, so he didn't get in," Shaw said.
After the Irish (6-0) went ahead on a 7-yard TD pass from backup Tommy Rees to TJ Jones in overtime, Taylor had a 13-yard run to give Stanford a first down on the 4-yard line. Taylor, who rushed for 102 yards, carried the ball four straight times. He got a yard on the first play and two on the second.
He ran it up the middle on the third and came within inches of scoring. Quarterback Josh Nunes thought Taylor scored on that play, but as Taylor was trying to push his way through a wall of Irish defenders, Irish linebacker Manti Te'o pushed him back.
"He's fighting, fighting and our guys are on his legs, holding him up and I'm just glad I got in there to help," Te'o said.
Taylor was fighting just as hard on the next play, but found nowhere to break through.
"It was a bunch of tough runs, a bunch of tough plays. It was a close play," Nunes said.
The stops allowed Notre Dame defense to keep alive its stretch of not allowing a rushing touchdown yet this season.
The Irish did give up a touchdown for the first time in four games, but it wasn't against the defense. Stanford became the first team this season to take the lead against the Irish when defensive end Ben Gardner sacked Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson in the end zone, knocking the ball loose. Cardinal linebacker Chase Thomas jumped on the ball for the touchdown, giving Stanford a 7-3 lead.
Shaw was upset about what he said was a whistle from the stands in the fourth quarter, saying it caused his players to stop playing. It was on a third-and-2 from the 3-yard line on Stanford's second-to-last possession of regulation. Notre Dame safety Matthias Farley sacked Nunes for a 7-yard loss to end a drive.
"There was a whistle that came from the crowd. That's why our guys stopped playing. It was verified. It was heard. The play did not stop. I don't know what the rule is on that. I'll double check with the officials and make sure whatever we can do gets done in that situation. Because that was heard. Jordan came in and kicked the ball through, but that's something that I don't know what the rule is, but I've got to research that."
Shaw said it wasn't the first time a whistle from the stands at Notre Dame Stadium had caused a problem. It also happened in a game two weeks ago against Michigan, when officials ruled a play had to be replayed because of a whistle from the stands.
Irish players said they did not hear the whistle and didn't notice Stanford letting up.
The Cardinal settled for a 27-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson, who earlier had kicked a career-long 48-yard field goal.
Shaw praised the effort of Taylor.
"He's a tough kid. He just keeps his legs turning. He gets as many yards as he can on every single play," Shaw said. "Every single play he runs it like it's life or death. I love that about him. He's one of guys that is the heartbeat of our team."
Nunes, who was 12 of 25 passing for 125 yards, said the Cardinal had their chances.
"We had a lot of opportunities out there, but I think we left them on the field though," he said.Comment on this story
Shaw would not comment on defensive back Usua Amanam being called for a personal foul for a hit that knocked Golson out of the game on Notre Dame's last drive or a pass interference call on Terrence Brown several plays later that gave the Irish a first down at the 13 to set up the game tying 22-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza with 20 seconds left.
Stanford players said it was a difficult loss, coming after a 54-48 overtime win over Arizona a week earlier.
"It's probably one of the hardest losses I've felt," linebacker Chase Thomas said.