Nightmare season continues for Notre Dame, Brian Kelly after loss to NC State
Notre Dame fell to 2-4 on Saturday thanks in part to some odd play-calling on offense
It has to be hard to put together a plan for a game played in the kind of conditions that Notre Dame and NC State faced on Saturday. With Hurricane Matthew still raging off the Atlantic coast, the Irish and Wolfpack played the entire game in a driving rain storm that caused a 55-minute delay during halftime. Ultimately, NC State emerged from the lake at Carter-Finley Stadium with a 10-3 victory.
The field was a mess, and the play on it was worse as the two offenses botched snaps, fumbled repeatedly, and had an impossible time moving the ball. Even in these conditions, however, you couldn't help but scratch your head at some of the play-calling decisions Notre Dame and coach Brian Kelly made on offense.
DeShone Kizer had trouble throwing the ball all day, as you would expect from any quarterback in such conditions, yet time and again the Irish dropped back to pass. Kizer finished the day 9 of 26 for 54 yards and an interception. Kelly apparently gave no consideration to inserting Malik Zaire, a superior runner.
The result? Notre Dame lost a game in which it didn't even allow an offensive touchdown. The Wolfpack's lone touchdown came on a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter. Of course, when you have more fumbles on the day (four) than points (three), it's hard to win no matter what your defense does.
The loss drops Notre Dame to 2-4 on the season, and the Irish are now in serious jeopardy of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2009. That was Charlie Weis' final season; he was replaced by Kelly the next year.
Even more concerning for Kelly and the Irish is that Notre Dame is now 2-6 in its last eight games against Power Five opponents, including losses to Duke and now NC State this season. It's enough to make you wonder if Kelly's job could be in jeopardy.
I certainly didn't think it was possible, even after the loss to Duke earlier this year, but the dismissal of Brian VanGorder as defensive coordinator showed that Kelly is certainly feeling pressure from somewhere. I don't think he'd sacrifice VanGorder just to get the fans off his back.
And it was one thing when the Irish were losing close games to teams like Stanford, Clemson and even Texas on the road to start the season. Losing to Michigan State isn't going to cause anybody to grab a pitchfork, either, but Duke and NC State? Losing games like those has just never been acceptable at Notre Dame.
To be clear, unless the Irish completely bottom out over their final six games and finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-8, I still believe Kelly is back in 2017. He's accomplished enough in South Bend that he should be allowed a bad season before the axe drops on him, but the possibility exists that he may not.
As playing football in a hurricane will teach you, the wind can shift directions on you quickly.
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