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Close Encounters At Notre Dame

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About 45 percent of the games under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame were determined by seven or fewer points.
Photo by Bill Panzica

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When it comes to close games, they tend to even out over time.

During Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season march in 2012, it was 5-0 in games determined by seven points or less, not including holding on in the finale at USC to win 22-13, a game closer than the margin of victory indicated.

Last year during a nightmare 4-8 campaign, though, the Fighting Irish were 1-6 in outcomes determined by seven points or less. In five of them Notre Dame had a fourth quarter lead, and in the sixth it was tied in the fourth quarter.

Those were the two extremes under head coach Brian Kelly — 5-0 one year and 1-6 in another — for an “even” 6-6 result.

Over the past three years (2014-16) Notre Dame was involved in 18 games (six per season) in which the outcome was decided by seven points or less. The Irish are 7-11 in such contests, with the 1-6 ledger last year significantly impacting that result. It might be time in 2017 to “come back to the mean.”

From 2012 until the controversial loss at Florida State in 2014, Kelly’s Notre Dame squads were a ridiculous 12-2 in games decided by seven points or less, including a 10-game winning streak at one point. Only a 12-game winning streak by head coach Elmer Layden’s Irish from 1937-39 eclipsed that.

Overall now, Kelly is 22-19 in those type of outcomes (and 2-4 in overtime). Of the 90 games coached by Kelly at Notre Dame (59-31) 45.6 percent were decided by seven or fewer points.

Here is the year-by-year breakdown, chronologically, under Kelly:

2010: 2-3

Lost to Michigan 28-24

Lost to Michigan State 34-31 (OT)

Beat Pitt 23-17

Lost to Tulsa 28-27

Beat USC 20-16


2011: 3-3

Lost to South Florida 23-20

Lost to Michigan 35-31

Beat Pitt 15-12

Beat Wake Forest 24-17

Beat Boston College 16-14

Lost to Florida State 18-14 in Champs Sports Bowl


2012: 5-0

Beat Purdue 20-17

Beat Michigan 13-6

Beat Stanford 20-13 (OT)

Beat BYU 17-14

Beat Pitt 29-26 (3OT)


2013: 5-2

Beat Purdue 31-24

Beat Michigan State 17-13

Beat Arizona State 37-34

Beat USC 14-10

Beat Navy 38-34

Lost to Pitt 28-21

Lost to Stanford 27-20


2014: 3-3

Beat Stanford 17-14

Beat North Carolina 50-43

Lost to Florida State 31-27

Lost to Northwestern 43-40 (OT)

Lost to Louisville 31-28

Beat LSU 31-28 in Music City Bowl


2015: 3-2

Beat Virginia 34-27

Lost to Clemson 24-22

Beat Temple 24-20

Beat Boston College 19-16

Lost to Stanford 38-36


2016: 1-6

Lost to Texas 50-47 (2OT)

Lost to Duke 38-35

Lost to North Carolina State 10-3

Lost to Stanford 17-10

Beat Miami 30-27

Lost to Navy 28-27

Lost to Virginia Tech 34-31


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