No. 18 Notre Dame Continues Freefall; Loses 43-40 To Northwestern


Turnovers. Mental mistakes. Questionable coaching decisions. The No. 18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish went from part of the playoff picture to wondering which poorly sponsored bowl game they might be partaking in after losing 43-40 to the Northwestern Wildcats.

Coach Brian Kelly made a questionable decision to go for two, and then instead of kneeling on the ball in the final minutes he chose to run the ball. Cam McDaniel fumbled and the upset was on. But the truth is, this has been coming for weeks. The Irish (7-3) keep turning the ball over. They keep giving their opponents easy points. This was an upset, but only by betting odds. The Wildcats (4-6) played the game like they expected to win, and did just that.

The Irish started off quickly as Everett Golson kept the ball on a read-option and went 61 yards within the first minute to put them up 7-0. The Wildcats wasted no time in responding, as freshman Justin Jackson ripped off a big 44-yard run, and the drive was capped off on a two-yard Matt Alviti TD run to tie it 7-7.

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After a Notre Dame punt gave the ball back to the Wildcats, the Irish caught a break. Treyvon Green fumbled, and safety Austin Collinsworth scooped it up and returned it 32-yards for the score. Collinsworth has missed much of the last few seasons to injury, and was finally able to make a big play, something they desperately needed. But the sideshow of the Irish kicking game would bite them seconds later, as new holder Malik Zaire bobbled the snap, allowing the Wildcats to block the kick. They would return it for the two-point conversion to make it a 13-9 game.

After stopping the Wildcats on downs, Golson connected with William Fuller on two big passes to move the Irish downfield quickly. Tarean Folston would get the score on a nifty spin move as the Irish went up 20-9.

With the score 20-16 in favor of Notre Dame, Golson had a batted ball go off his lineman’s helmet, and into the arms of Anthony Walker, who returned it 65 yards to the Irish four-yard line. Jackson would punch it in for the Wildcats first lead, 23-20.

Notre Dame would take the lead back when Golson connected with Fuller for a 23-yard Td, and his first of three scores on the day. He would also catch a screen pass and go 23-yards to push the Irish lead to 34-26.

Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian continued to keep them in the game, making smart decisions the entire game. What appeared to be his most critical mistake of the game came mid-way through the fourth quarter when he was intercepted by Cole Luke, giving the Irish the ball back deep in Wildcat territory. Golson would connect with Fuller for his third and final score, but the Irish failed on the two-point conversion, leaving the score at 40-29.

Siemian would get an easy score with just over four-minutes to play as he ran up the middle of the vacated field for an easy 6-yard score. The Wildcats converted on the two-point conversion, after the first try drew a pass interference call on Notre Dame. With the score 40-37, it looked like the Irish would barely hang on.

With 1:36 left to play, and a second down and eight, normally sure handed Cam McDaniel got the ball on a run to the right…and promptly fumbled. Northwestern recovered, and the fans were stunned. While it was his first fumble of the year, the Irish could have taken a knee and essentially run the clock out.

Instead the wildcats quickly moved the ball into field-goal range, tying the game with a 45-yard field goal.

After Notre Dame failed to convert on its overtime possession, the normally reliable Kyle Brindza came on to give the Irish the lead. His field-goal sailed left, and the Irish came up empty.

The Irish, who by all accounts had the better kicking game would not be the case. Jack Mitchell who hadn’t hit many from beyond 30 yards, connected again, this time from 45-yards to give the Wildcats the “upset” victory, 43-40.

Both teams turned the ball over four times, but for the Irish, their’s proved to be the more critically timed. This game couldn’t be put all upon Golson, as the turnover bug has spread throughout the entire offense. Adjustments need to be made. Responsibility can’t be the only acceptable answer. The Irish and coach Kelly may need to shake things up the last two weeks. At this point, there really is nothing to lose for Notre Dame.