Notre Dame's need for a two-point conversion was self-inflicted

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

CLEMSON, S.C. – Did Brian Kelly panic a bit early in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s 24-22 loss to Clemson Saturday night?

Did the Irish football coach try to bite off too much too soon?

There will be plenty of opportunities for Notre Dame fans to second-guess his decision to go for two points after C.J. Prosise scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass from DeShone Kizer.

With 14:13 left in the game, Prosise’s touchdown pulled the Irish to within 21-9 on an uphill battle they faced the entire night. Once Prosise scored, Kelly immediately signaled for the Irish to go for two. Kizer’s pass attempt fell incomplete.

Had the Irish brought Justin Yoon on for the conversion kick, in all likelihood, when Notre Dame scored in the final seconds of the game, the Irish would been within one, where an extra-point kick would have sent the game into overtime.

Instead, trailing 24-22, Notre Dame was forced to go for a two-point conversion with 7 seconds left in regulation. Kizer, who had a run/pass option on the final play, was stuffed at the line of scrimmage when Carlos Watkins blew up the Irish blocking.

Kelly, though, refused to second-guess himself.

“To get to within 10, obviously, a touchdown and a field goal,” was what Kelly said was his thought process in the decision. “We knew we’d have the wind, so it seemed to be the right play at the time.”

Obviously, there’s no way to know for sure how everything would have played out. Three fumbles and an interception had a lot more to do with the final outcome than a decision to go for the two-point conversion.

Notre Dame’s offense had a 437-296 edge over Clemson. The Tigers had 104 yards and 14 points from their first 11 plays, and 192 yards and 10 points from their final 53 snaps. An Irish defense that was miserable in the first 6:17 of the game, was stout in the final 53:43.

By then, though, it was too late.

The battle of Deshaun (Watson) vs. DeShone (Kizer) went to the Notre Dame quarterback. Kizer completed 19 of 34 passes for 321 yards and two TDs. Clemson QB Watson of 11 of 22 for 97 yards and two TDs – 52 of those 97 yards came in the first two series.

The stat that made the biggest difference was turnovers: 4-1. Three critical Notre Dame fumbles buried the Irish. Each defense had an interception.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly yells from the sideline during the Notre Dame-Clemson NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, Memorial Stadium at Clemson University in Clemson, SC. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN