Blue and Gold Illustrated

Dec 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 DEC. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI P art of becoming a champion is staying ahead of the curve — or at least ahead in the game. During its 10-0 regular season, No. 2-ranked Notre Dame did just that. Of the 600 minutes played in regulation time (not including over- time, where minutes aren't kept) this season, head coach Brian Kelly's troops trailed only 44:47, and never by more than seven points. That translates to not having to play from behind 92.5 percent of the time. Even more impressive is the way the Fighting Irish have answered on offense when they do find them- selves trailing, especially at North Carolina Nov. 27. • North Carolina's opening series resulted in a quick 7-0 lead — but Notre Dame responded with a 75- yard touchdown march in nine plays to knot the score. • The Tar Heels showed they meant business when less than two minutes later they went ahead 14-7. Once again, the unflinching Irish an- swered with an 82-yard drive in four plays that took just 1:54 and tied the game at 14. • North Carolina's final drive of the first half resulted in a field goal for a 17-14 lead with 1:10 left and po- tential momentum at halftime. Naturally, Notre Dame matched that with a 61-yard drive in seven plays, with senior Jonathan Doerer knocking home a 32-yard field goal as the first half expired with a 17-17 deadlock. The Irish then proceeded to dominate the second half. Of the 40 quarters of football played this season, the Irish trailed at the end of one only twice: 3-0 ver- sus Duke after the first quarter in the season opener Sept. 12, and 17-14 at the end of the first quarter versus Florida State Oct. 10. Beginning with that 42-26 victory versus the Seminoles, they have be- come a football version of an "an- swering machine." • After FSU went ahead 17-14 with 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Notre Dame responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive to go ahead for good. When the Seminoles narrowed it to one score (28-20) on a field goal with 1:17 remaining until halftime, Notre Dame marched to a 57-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left until the intermission. And just when Florida State thought it could make a game of it again by opening the second half with a touchdown to pull within 35-26 — again Notre Dame answered the ensuing series with a 73-yard touchdown drive that took 3:39. • Versus Louisville the following week, Notre Dame found itself trail- ing in the second half for the first time this season when a Cardinals touchdown made it 7-6 at the 7:37 mark of the third quarter. After the kickoff (following a penalized onside kick attempt), the poised Irish went 66 yards in eight plays and took the lead for good in the 12-7 victory. • At Georgia Tech, Notre Dame never did fall behind, but the Yellow Jackets stunned the Irish with a 93- yard fumble return that tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter. No panic. Af- ter the kickoff, fifth-year senior quar- terback Ian Book quickly marched the offense 75 yards in seven plays for a 14-7 lead that would grow to 31-7 in the 31-13 win. • In the showdown with No. 1 Clemson Nov. 7, the Tigers' first touchdown to cut their deficit to 10-7 was answered by a Notre Dame field goal. The two times the Irish fell behind in the contest, 33-26 in the fourth quarter and 40-33 in the first over- time, it scored touchdowns to even the score — although it would take a second possession after the first. The first one, 91 yards in 1:26 and just 22 seconds left in regulation time, is one of the epic scoring drives in the program's annals. • The following week in the ideal letdown situation at Boston College, Notre Dame trailed twice. After BC went ahead 10-3 in the first quarter, the Irish response was a 77-yard touchdown march. When the Eagles went ahead again 13-10, Notre Dame followed on the next series with a 75-yard touchdown drive to go ahead for good. Both of Kelly's 12-0 regular-season teams in 2012 and 2018 had similar patterns. The 2012 edition never fell behind by more than seven points in the first eight games, until having to rally from 20-6 down versus Pitt to win in three overtimes. In 2018, Notre Dame didn't fall be- hind by more than one score until the 12th game, 10-0 at USC before rally- ing to a 24-17 win. ✦ UNDER THE DOME AHEAD OF THE GAME Notre Dame has seldom trailed in 2020, and has been an 'answering machine' Out of a possible 40 quarters of play through the 10-0 regular season, Notre Dame trailed at the end of only two of them, the last of which was a 17-14 deficit in the first quarter versus Florida State Oct. 10. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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