Brian Kelly needs to make better use of ‘garbage time’ in blowout wins

Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly could do a better job of using “garbage time” when the Irish are thumping an opponent.

Maybe a couple of close calls against Florida State and Louisville have Brian Kelly’s blowout management rusty because once the game hit the 4th quarter Kelly put in the backups and smashed the breaks.

The Irish didn’t need to score more, but it became a wasted quarter of football. The offense didn’t do anything but sit on the football and run uninspired, bland run plays. To the result against Pitt, it didn’t matter. That doesn’t mean Kelly’s use of “garbage time” doesn’t have a long term effect on Notre Dame.

By sitting on the ball, having the backups run up the gut, and killing the clock you get out of the game without any injuries to starters. The game ends a little quicker, and everyone gets to go home and celebrate. Great.

Notre Dame gets the benefit of the doubt oftentimes, too. Win close? You found a way to win. Win big? That’s what’s expected. Sure, the Irish don’t get the benefit of the doubt to the same extent as a team like Alabama, but it’s not like this is the Kellen Moore era at Boise State who needs to style points to get any amount of respect.

So, what’s the issue? Kelly is not getting anything out of the garbage time quarters. Yes, nothing goes wrong, but nothing goes right.

Backup players get fewer reps in practice and almost no reps in actual games. Broadly speaking, this makes sense because they play less and rarely during meaningful moments. But, what happens if Ian Book gets hurt? A backup who has no in-game experience that doesn’t involve handing the ball off is expected to consistently win games.

That’s just not going to happen. If vital starters go down, the backups won’t be ready. With their limited number of live snaps, you need to get backups to practice running the actual offense. Otherwise, you’re just accepting that you won’t be getting any player development from a quarter of meaningless football.

Some people may claim that running up the score is wrong. You need to show some sportsmanship.

Those people are wrong. The fact that your backups are in is proof enough that you aren’t running up the score. Even if you do run up the score, who cares? This is major college football. It’s not pee wee football. If Pitt doesn’t like it, they’re allowed to do something about it. For some reason, Ohio State, Clemson and their ilk manage to run their offense with the backups in and it’s no big deal. They’re just developing their backups.

The thing is that this isn’t a 2020 issue for Kelly. He never turned Phil Jurkovec loose last year in games. Relegating him to close it out and move on duty. Now at Boston College, who has thrown for 1,671 yards and 12 touchdowns, Jurkovec left frustrated. Maybe if they opened him up he would be around to offer another option to Ian Book.