STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Wayne Lyons intercepted two passes from Tommy Rees late in the fourth quarter, and No. 8 Stanford held off No. 25 Notre Dame 27-20 on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"There are no moral victories," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. "Very disappointed we weren't able to come up with a play to win the football game. We didn't come out here just to play a close game."
Rees nearly rallied the Fighting Irish by throwing two touchdown passes in the 4th to TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels. The TD tosses give Rees 60 for his career, moving him into 2nd all-time in Notre Dame history. But With the Irish down just 27-20, interceptions on Notre Dame's final two drives dashed Notre Dame's come back.
The Irish finish the regular season with an 8-4 record.
"Not good enough obviously," Rees said. "Proud of the guys and proud of my teammates and the way they fought all year but you don't come to Notre Dame to be 8-4 and everyone understands that. We're not going to make excuses."
"That's not where we want to be," Kelly says. "Losing is unacceptable. 8‑4 is not where we want to be. We lost some tough games. We want to win football games. We come to Notre Dame to win football games. You know, we could sit here and talk for 10 minutes how we got 15 guys that are injured. Those are excuses. We got to win football games."
"It's tough," Irish captain and offensive lineman Zack Martin said. "To go down in a close one like this in your last regular season game is tough. Proud of the guys and the seniors class for coming out here but we wanted to come out here and win."
The Irish lost senior offensive lineman Chris Watt to some sort of leg injury during the game.
"It didn't look good," Kelly said, not wanting to elaborate on what the injury is.
Watt's injury is the latest on the offensive line which lost Christian Lombard midway through the season and then center Nick Martin last week. But those that did play vs the Cardinal, held their own.
"They gave us a chance to win," Kelly said of his offensive line. We were down a lot of bodies in there and they battled. It could have been ugly. They really gave Tommy an opportunity to make some plays."
The Cardinal (10-2) overcame two interceptions from Kevin Hogan and a penalty that wiped away another touchdown to win their 16th consecutive home game. Stanford will play for its second straight Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth next week when it faces No. 13 Arizona State in the conference championship game.
Tyler Gaffney ran for 189 yards and a touchdown, and Hogan threw for 158 yards and TD pass to Devon Cajuste to help the Cardinal take a 21-6 lead in the third quarter.