Game story: Miserable day ends in miserable way for Notre Dame

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

RALEIGH, N.C. — Generally miserable.

That’s how an observant, quick-witted press box announcer described the weather swirling mercilessly around Carter-Finley Stadium prior to the start of Saturday’s game.

That is, if it was indeed a football game. That’s up for interpretation.

“You can’t prepare for this,” junior quarterback DeShone Kizer said of the sloppy circumstances that hijacked Notre Dame’s 10-3 loss to North Carolina State. “You don’t get this up in South Bend, Ind.

“You can use wet balls. You can do whatever you want and prepare yourself mentally, but until you’re here with sideways rain, there’s nothing you can do to really get yourself prepared for that.”

Here’s what else was generally miserable from Notre Dame’s loss in rain-ravaged Raleigh:

• The wretched remains of the natural grass playing surface, punished by the residue of Hurricane Matthew, which gradually devolved into a mess of mud and puddles. On a day when N.C. State celebrated Carter-Finley Stadium’s 50th birthday, the building was virtually submerged.

The light poles attached to the east bleachers swayed ominously from side to side, as 40 mph winds blew the rain in sideways. The fans, decked out in plastic ponchos that failed to rebuff the relentless storm, were asked to “voluntarily evacuate” at halftime as both teams endured a lightning delay.

According to the National Weather Service, 5.28 inches of rain drenched Raleigh from midnight to 4 p.m.

In that water-logged weather, the Irish sank.

“There was never a conversation about (the game) not being played,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “I was a little concerned, obviously, about the conditions. But they were the same for both teams.”

• Notre Dame’s once-explosive offense, which racked up 654 total yards and 50 points a week ago but was stifled in the sloppy conditions on Saturday. Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer was sacked five times, completed just 9 of 26 passes for 54 yards, lost a fumble and threw an interception.

“This is what you play football for,” Kizer said after the game. “There’s no other sport like this where you can have hurricanes, tropical-storm weather, and you’re still be able to go out and compete.

“That was awesome, but also, it sucks to lose. The conditions were not where we want them (to be) with the offense that we run, and we weren’t able to execute passing the football like we wanted to.”

Notre Dame’s running attack wasn’t able to execute, either. The Irish managed a grand total of 59 rushing yards on 38 tries on Saturday, 1.6 yards per rush.

“It really just comes down to each man looking himself in the mirror and understanding his job 100 percent of the time and then going and doing it,” Irish senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey said.

“It’s about going to work and your fundamentals and then (how you) take your fundamentals and fit it in the scheme that we’re running. That’s that. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

• Both teams’ best attempts at ball security, a virtual impossibility considering the severe circumstances.

The Irish and Wolfpack combined for 10 fumbles, each losing two. One of Notre Dame’s lost fumbles came at the N.C. State 22-yard line early in the second quarter, when center Sam Mustipher’s shotgun snap never got off the ground. The Irish suffered déjà vu in their final offensive drive, when Mustipher snapped the ball early on fourth-and-8 from the N.C. State 20-yard line. The ball sputtered over Kizer’s head, thus ending a 60-yard drive and extinguishing any hopes of overtime.

“He thought he heard something,” Kelly explained. “We were trying to scan the (defensive) play. We were trying to get a peek at what it was. He heard something, and the ball got snapped.”

Kelly added: “Obviously, the lack of our ability to manage the snapping of the football was atrocious.”

In all, Notre Dame’s offense traveled inside the Wolfpack 25-yard line five times and scored a total of three points. N.C. State also failed to register an offensive touchdown, but a blocked punt from tight end Pharoah McKever was returned 16 yards by safety Dexter Wright for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, putting the home team up for good.

Notre Dame’s defense allowed just 198 total yards, a season-best, but that wasn’t enough. Neither was a career game from sophomore nose tackle Jerry Tillery, who finished with nine tackles, including a tackle for loss, in defeat.

Though defensive coordinator Greg Hudson’s renovated unit largely did its part, the offensive attack that carried the Irish through the season’s first five games was washed away with the crummy weather.

“I will say this: it was much more difficult throwing the football than…I can’t remember many games that it was this difficult,” Kelly said. “But it was difficult for both teams. We don’t have any excuses. We were atrocious offensively.”

When the game mercifully ended and N.C. State’s players celebrated by using the muddy turf as a makeshift slip ‘n’ slide, the Irish trudged off the field, owners of a 2-4 record.

Yep, that’s generally miserable.

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame wide receiver Kevin Stepherson (29) has pass broken up by N.C. State's Dravious Wright (8) during the Notre Dame's 10-3 loss to N.C. State, Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)