Posted by Tom Fornelli
The job as head football coach at Notre Dame is not easy. Not only are you in the spotlight every weekend thanks to your own television deal with a major network, but you've also got an entire country filled with Notre Dame fans watching and judging your every move on Saturdays. To make matters worse, most of these fans seem to forget that the Irish haven't won a national title since 1988, and expect perfection from their team every week.
For the most part, Brian Kelly has seemed like the perfect man for the job. As much a politician as a head football coach, he's proven adept at handling all the demands of such a high-pressure job. Of course, you can shake as many hands as you want, at the end of the day if you're not winning football games, you're not going to last in South Bend.
On Saturday Kelly suffered his first loss with the Irish, and though his team played hard and held the lead in the last minute, Kelly did leave himself open to some second-guessing.
In the first half the Irish had lost Dayne Crist to some mysterious eye injury and had to replace him with unproven quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Nate Montana . Still, at the end of the first half trailing only 21-7, the Irish found themselves with the ball at the Michigan 3-yard line with three seconds left on the clock.
Instead of taking the easy points and heading to the locker room trailing 14-10, Kelly decided to go for the big score. What he got was Nate Montana completely overthrowing his receivers out the back of the Notre Dame end zone.
It was a decision that loomed large at the end of the game after Denard Robinson capped off his Heismanesque performance with a touchdown to give the Wolverines a four-point lead in the final minute. Instead of trailing by one the Irish were down four and needed a touchdown to win the game. The Irish drove down to the Michigan 27 yard line with time for one final heave towards the end zone.
Much like Montana before him, Dayne Crist ended up sailing his pass through the back of the end zone and into the Notre Dame marching band. The game was over, Notre Dame had lost.
But had the Irish kicked a field goal to end the first half, they only would have had to try a 44-yard field goal to win the game. There's no guarantee the Irish would have made the kick and won the game, but thanks to Kelly's decision to go for the touchdown thirty minutes earlier, the Irish will never know.