Notre Dame won because Pitt place kicker Kevin Harper pushed a 33-yard field goal wide right in the second overtime. Naturally, Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly talked about how much his team had “overcome” to win.
He’s right: His team overcame playing a bad football game and got lucky it was playing a bad football team.
And yet, it doesn’t matter: Notre Dame is 9-0 and remains one of four in contention to win the national championship.
Notre Dame fans will point out that their team wasn’t the only one to struggle Saturday. But let’s take a look at the other contenders’ opponents: Alabama, after blowing a 14-3 lead at LSU, came back to win, 21-17, on a late drive engineered by quarterback AJ McCarron. Winning in Death Valley against LSU is just a tad harder than winning at Notre Dame against a team that didn’t beat Youngstown State.
Oregon gave up 51 points — fifty-one — to Southern Cal. And won easily, 62-51. The score is actually a little deceiving. USC has a superb offense and rolled up a lot of yardage, but the final score would have been a lot more one-sided if a Matt Barkley interception, with the Ducks up 55-38 early in the fourth quarter, hadn’t been wiped out by a phantom pass interference call. Instead of Oregon rolling in to score again — as it no doubt would have — the Trojans scored to make it 55-45. What’s more, USC’s last touchdown came with one second left.
Prior to Saturday, people had rolled their eyes a little at Oregon’s video game-like offensive numbers because the Ducks really hadn’t played anybody. Make fun of USC all you want — and there hasn’t been a more disappointing team this season— but it is loaded with future NFL players and the defense that gave up 730 yards (not a typo) is coached by Monte Kiffin, who was voted into the Hall of Defensive Geniuses years ago. If Kenjon Barner isn’t in the Heisman conversation after rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns, then Rudy was really Joe Montana.
And then there’s Kansas State. The Wildcats easily beat a solid Oklahoma State team, even though their Heisman candidate, quarterback Collin Klein, went out with an injury in the third quarter. How badly Klein is hurt or exactly which body part he injured (it appeared to be his right hand or arm) will be treated by Coach Bill Snyder as a matter of national security.
Here’s what Snyder said about Klein: “Obviously he was hurt, or we wouldn’t have taken him out of the game.”
Snyder’s the coach of the year right now at the age of 73. A remarkable story. He’s certainly not going to be the one to tell it.