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Murphy’s Law for Kelly: tough decision costly for Notre Dame

Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

Decisions. We make them every day. Some are big and are some small. The biggest decisions most of us make every day is what we’re going to wear and what we’re going to eat.

Depending on occupation, the vast majority of the decisions most of us make are in relatively low-stress situations.  White or wheat bread, paper or plastic, boxers or briefs – nothing on the line there – and there and none of those mundane decisions come with instant media and social media scrutiny.

Just imagine if cameras followed us around and people tweeting or announcers commentating on those decisions and second-guessing them as they happen.

That’s what happens with college and professional coaches and player every day. They make those decisions – hundreds per game – in the spotlight and under the magnifying glass while the rest of us -fans, announcers and media alike – look on ready to pounce and call them out for their decisions.

The difference, of course, is those coaches and players actually have to make the decisions in real time and then live with the results – good or bad – while the rest of us get to pass judgment after those decisions have already been made.

That’s why they make the big bucks, right?

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has had his share of decisions to make this season, and he had another one Saturday at a crucial juncture in his team’s 28-27 loss to Navy.

Kelly’s Irish were staring at 4th and 4 from the Navy 14 with 7:28 to play in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame trailed 28-24 after seeing the Midshipmen grind nine minutes off the clock before scoring a touchdown on their previous possession.

The decision Kelly had to make was simple — kick or go for it. Kick a 31-yard field goal and pull within a point and then hope his defense could get him the ball back in time for another score… or go for it and at least have the chance to score a touchdown and take the lead.

In the fewer than 25 seconds on the play clock, Kelly — as all coaches do every game — had to process all the information and then decide his fate.

Under normal circumstances and against a “normal” opponent there probably really isn’t a decision to make with 7:28 remaining. Just kick the field goal and then get the ball back at least once if not twice more and have a chance to score.

But Navy’s not a normal team. The Irish defense had stopped Navy’s offense just once all day, while the Mids averaged about six minutes per possession. Their ball control only allowed Notre Dame six total possessions on the afternoon, including a grand total of two second-half possessions.

It all meant that even if the Irish did get the ball back, they were going to have about 90 seconds to try to score. Notre Dame has come up short time and again (see losses to Duke, Michigan State, Stanford and North Carolina State) this season in endgame, hurry-up situations.

Kelly had to process all that in a couple blinks of an eye and then opted for the field goal. Justin Yoon’s boot sailing through the uprights marked the last time the Irish possessed the ball. Navy drained the final 7:28 of the clock to end the game.

Right or wrong — second-guessed for sure — he made his decision.

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