Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2015

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

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loss at Arizona State in which Golson committed five giveaways. "I don't know what else to do. We're at the point where it hurt us in the game, obviously. He knows it." Kelly opened up a quarterback com- petition during bowl preparations. In- stead of earning a seat in New York during the Heisman weekend, Golson instead might have earned himself a seat on the bench at the Music City Bowl. 'UNRETURNABLE' BECOMES UNFIXABLE Senior kicker Kyle Brindza said for months that he expected to win awards for best kicker (Lou Groza) and punter (Ray Guy) in addition to a national championship this season. All three fell off the radar pretty quickly. Brindza, who expertly handled the kicking, punting and kickoff duties for two years — he was nicknamed Mr. Unreturnable for his high rate of touchbacks — became a shell of him- self down the stretch. Walk-on holder Hunter Smith botched a pair of holds on field goal attempts in a 17-14 tri- umph over Stanford Oct. 4 and did it again in the 55-31 loss to Arizona State Nov. 8, so he was replaced by sopho- more quarterback Malik Zaire in the final three games. Against Northwestern Nov. 15, a point after attempt was blocked and returned for two points by the Wild- cats, which later led to some fuzzy math by Kelly and a questionable deci- sion to go for two points when leading by 11 in the fourth quarter. Brindza also missed a pair of field goals in the 43-40 overtime loss. On Nov. 22, Brindza made a pair of field goals but missed a 32-yarder that likely would have sent the game into overtime in a 31-28 loss to Louisville. Brindza, known for his cool under pressure, was undeniably experienc- ing some confidence issues originally brought on by the holding problems. HOME COOKING LACKING TASTE Kelly has maintained throughout his tenure that the sign of a rock-solid pro- gram is one that wins nearly all of its home games. During a stretch of parts of four seasons, Kelly had won 17 of 18 games at home until Notre Dame's November meltdown. First, the Irish suffered an uncharac- teristic loss to Northwestern at Notre Dame Stadium. The Wildcats entered with a 3-6 record and ultimately failed to qualify for a bowl game at 5-7. The following week, Notre Dame lost to Louisville on senior day for its second straight home loss, the first time that happened since Kelly's first season in 2010. It also marked the first senior day loss under Kelly and the fourth time in six seasons that a pro- gram won its first appearance at Notre Dame Stadium (Connecticut in 2009, Tulsa in 2010, South Florida in 2011 and Louisville in 2014). In October, the Irish barely survived against Stanford and North Carolina at home in back-to-back weeks. Against the Cardinal Oct. 4, Golson completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Ben Koyack in the end zone on fourth-and-10 with 1:01 to play to secure the win. A week later, the Irish allowed 43 points but scored 50 to beat a Tar Heels team that went on to finish 6-6. ✦

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