With a fairly comfortable win over Syracuse the previous Saturday, the Fighting Irish were looking to bring their record to .500 against North Carolina State, but any momentum the Irish had built up in that win was squandered in a befuddling 10-3 loss to the Wolfpack.
To say that the game against the Wolfpack was miserable to watch would be an understatement. As I sat there on my couch, with the sun shining on a perfect fall day in California, a deluge of rain from Hurricane Matthew was pounding Raleigh, North Carolina into submission. It brought back memories of the game the Irish played against Clemson, just last year, but worse. Much, much worse. From start to finish, the field was a mess, a giant-sized slip-n-slide that wreaked havoc on every aspect of the game.
As bad as the weather was, though, it is, perhaps, the inexplicable play calling on the part of Coach Kelly that will be the lasting memory taken from this game. And, it was that inexplicable game plan, one that relied heavily on the pass, despite the heavy rain and wind, that has landed Coach Kelly on the hot seat, with the #FireKelly hashtag gaining momentum even before the game’s final whistle blew. I’m not quite there, yet, but even as someone who still supports Coach Kelly, I’m at a complete loss to defend his refusal to make any halftime adjustments, and his continued defense of his game plan in post-game press conferences and interviews hasn’t helped his cause at all. It’s a definite crack in Coach Kelly’s armor, and one that just might have a lasting impact on Coach Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame.
Key Fighting Irish Plays
2nd Quarter – Nyheim Hines fumble recovered by Daelin Hayes. Notre Dame’s center, Sam Mustipher, fumbled the snap on the previous play, which the Wolfpack recovered, but Hayes’ fumble recovery on the very next play sets the Irish up deep in Wolfpack territory.
2nd Quarter – DeShone Kizer pass intercepted at the NC State 1 yard line. Prior to this play, the Irish had moved the ball just 3 yards in 8 plays. With the Irish still in decent field goal range, given the weather, Kizer overthrew his receiver, and the ball sailed right into the waiting arms of a Wolfpack defender.
3rd Quarter – Justin Yoon 40 yard Field Goal. After the Irish defense forced a 3 and Out to start the 2nd Half, the Wolfpack’s punter was ruled down when his knee hit the turf as he tried to scoop up a low snap, and the Irish were in business at the North Carolina St. 25 yard line. Unfortunately, the Irish managed just 2 yards on three plays, and they had to settle for the field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
3rd Quarter – DeShone Kizer incomplete pass to Equanimeous St. Brown on 4th and 12 from the North Carolina St. 24 yard line. Yoon had nailed a 40 yard field goal on the prior possession, but facing a 4th and 12, Coach Kelly passed up a 41 yard field goal attempt for the lead, and the Irish came up empty-handed on this drive.
4th Quarter – Tyler Newsome punt blocked and returned for a North Carolina St. defensive TD. With neither team able to punch the ball into the end zone on offense, this blocked punt returned for a touchdown gave the Wolfpack a 10-3 lead, on what would turn out to be the game winning score.
Final Score: Notre Dame 3 – North Carolina State 10
Top Fighting Irish Performers
This is usually the spot where the Irish offense dominates, but after a game where the Irish offense barely managed to surpass a hundred yards of total offense (113 yards, to be exact), no one on the offense stands out as a Top Performer. Instead, the defensive unit for the Irish, Jerry Tillery in particular, deserve recognition this week.
Jerry Tillery – He’s had a fairly quiet season up until the game against the Wolfpack, with just 15 total tackles, but he led the team in tackles against North Carolina St. with 9 total tackles (5 solo, 4 assisted) and had 1 TFL.
Next Up: Notre Dame squares off against the Stanford Cardinal in South Bend at 7:30 ET (4:30 PST).