Notre Dame offense must grow up, learn how to finish

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

RALEIGH, N.C. — Four football games have come down to the final possession.

Failure is the only constant Notre Dame has had this season.

All four Irish losses — Texas, Michigan State, Duke and North Carolina State — came down to one critical late fourth-quarter drive in which Notre Dame has come up empty.

That disturbing trend was magnified in the 10-3 loss in the mud to the Wolfpack Saturday.

Trailing by seven with about nine minutes left in the game, Notre Dame had the ball on its own 20. The Irish were patient. A few passes here. Some short runs there. It seemed to be effective.

It covered 60 yards on 18 plays, chewed up 7 minutes and 41 seconds and advanced the ball to the North Carolina State 20.

Still, in the end, it sputtered and died before culminating with points — just like the previous three.

“We need to make that play that we’re not making,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “Go back and look at the (other losses). I want our offense to be that group that says, ‘Give us the ball. Give us the ball on that last drive.' We’ve had chances.

“In each one of our losses, to be that offense that has the ball last and makes something happen… We haven’t been able to deliver. We’ve got some inexperienced guys there, I get it. They’ve gotta grow up. That will be the emphasis.”

Six games into the season, experience shouldn’t be an issue. The new starters along the offensive and at receiver are veterans now, and the other skill position players have been there before.

Would it be growing up or being accountable?

“It comes down to each man looking in the mirror and understanding his job 100 percent of the time and then going and doing it,” said Irish left tackle and captain Mike McGlinchey. “It’s about going to work on your fundamentals, then take your fundamentals and fit them into the scheme that we’re running.

“It shouldn’t be that hard. We’ve gotta make some adjustments, obviously. We’ve gotta execute a lot better. Coach Kelly’s absolutely right (about the need to grow up).”

“(Growing up) comes with repetitions in practice,” said Irish receiver and captain Torii Hunter, Jr. “(We have to) pay attention to the little details and execute those details.

“If you put yourself in those situations, it will carry over to the game.”

It hasn’t so far — and it has showed.

Notre Dame receiver Torii Hunter Jr. (16) has a pass broken up by NC State's Jack Tocho (29) during Notre Dame's 10-3 loss to N.C. State, Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)