Leftovers & Links: On Notre Dame’s ball security and lack thereof


Jonathan Doerer is 32-of-32 on extra point attempts this season. While the Notre Dame junior kicker has missed two field goals this season, he has been automatic when turning six points into seven.

Thus, this space turned away from the point after attempt to give the Irish the lead with only 29 seconds remaining. The 300 words to be published when the clock hit 00:00 needed to be reworked enough to at least reflect Notre Dame had won, 21-20, thanks to an 87-yard drive in the closing minutes. Up until then, it spoke of only failure, expecting the previous 57 minutes of offensive struggles to prelude one last inept drive.

When Irish head coach Brian Kelly was asked in the immediate postgame about a botched snap on Doerer’s attempt, this scribe had no idea what was being referenced.

Oh, that.

“At that point, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kelly said. “You’re just moving on to the next play.”

Credit freshman punter Jay Bramblett for the hold of a lifetime, a hold that put off overtime and a hold that may have saved the season from the brink. And credit Doerer for not flinching amid relative chaos, especially coming off a 35-yard missed field goal the last time he swung his leg, fewer than seven minutes earlier.

Bramblett also handled two off-target long snaps on punts. For the first time in his career, senior long snapper John Shannon had a poor afternoon.

“John’s been great for us and he deserves a little help once in a while,” Kelly said Sunday.

Bramblett helped.

It was inevitable. At some point, even though a Notre Dame running back had not so much as put the ball on the ground once this season, at some point an Irish running back would lose a fumble. None had in 1,273 carries when junior Jafar Armstrong got hit at the goal line Saturday. The resulting 98-yard return for a touchdown put an exclamation point on the end of the streak.

“We have to execute better in blocking the middle linebacker,” Kelly said. “But certainly they’ll be aware of ball security again this week.”

Josh Adams had the most attempts in the streak with 405, while walk-on Josh Anderson had the fewest, with one. To continue the J.A. initials theme, Josh Adams lost the fumble that preceded the streak, while Jafar Armstrong lost the one that ended it.

Again, it was inevitable. An oblong ball was eventually going to bounce away from Notre Dame. When first-year Irish running backs coach Lance Taylor was asked about the streak back in August, he never quite said that, but he acknowledged he wished the question had not even been asked.

As Hokies safety Divine Deablo streaked 98 yards down the sideline, Notre Dame fans could hardly be blamed if they flashed back to 2011 when such events unfolded twice. Kelly did not think of those mishaps in the moment, but perhaps the lessons learned in those losses to South Florida and Southern Cal informed him a bit this weekend.

“I don’t know about a flashback, but it seemed like it had happened before,” Kelly said. “Maybe in my subconscious I was thinking of it.

“… Maybe my subconscious was working in the respect that I called the team together and said, ‘Listen, that certainly was their momentum gain. You could feel it, you could see it, but we’re going to overcome this.”

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