On the other side, Shayne Skov and Ben Gardner gave Golson and the Irish very little room to operate.
Golson alternated between scary and spectacular, completing 12 of 24 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also lost two key fumbles — one that Stanford’s Chase Thomas recovered in the end zone in the second quarter for a touchdown and the other in the third that gave the Cardinal the ball back after Golson had made a long run deep into Stanford territory.
Thomas’ touchdown put Stanford up 7-3, the first time all season Notre Dame had trailed.
Nunes had a similar day for Stanford, going 12 for 25 for 125 yards with two interceptions.
Notre Dame finally found the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. On a third-and-18 from the 24, Golson lofted a pass to the front corner of the end zone that the 6-foot-6 Eifert came down with for a 10-10 tie.
Nunes, Taylor and the Cardinal responded with their best drive of the game, a methodical 16-play, 65-yard march that took 8:03 off the clock and reached the Notre Dame 3. The Irish got a stop on third down, though the Stanford players contended they heard a whistle on the play and stopped playing. They settled for Williamson’s field and a three-point lead.
The third season under a coach has traditionally been a memorable one at Notre Dame. Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all won national titles in Year 3 of coaching the Irish.
Kelly’s third season in South Bend was already starting to feel as if it could be special, too. Against Stanford, the Irish raised the stakes even higher.
‘‘We’re halfway through the season, and six weeks left with this group,’’ Kelly said, ‘‘I think they leave here knowing they can win if they stick with the plan.’’
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoAP