Question: Who does coach Brian Kelly blame for Notre Dame’s loss to N.C. State on Saturday, himself or his center?
Answer: Depends on which story you’re reading Sunday morning.
A headline on ESPN.com reads, “Brian Kelly takes blame for Notre Dame's loss at NC State.”
But according to a Kansas City Star headline, “Notre Dame coach catches heat for blaming center for snap woes during hurricane.”
Really, when a team that had national championship aspirations coming into the season falls to 2-4, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
While Fighting Irish fans and other college football observers wondered why Notre Dame threw the ball 26 times in Saturday’s 10-3 loss in Raleigh, which was played in the middle of Hurricane Matthew, Kelly wasn’t second-guessing himself about that.
"We still had 38 carries. I think it was pretty evident to me that we were in need of throwing the football when we did throw it,” Kelly said, per ESPN. “We just weren't as effective as I thought we could be."
He is second-guessing himself, however, on the formation that failed to prevent a blocked punt that was returned by N.C. State for the game’s only touchdown.
"You had two guys back there (on the punt), maybe you second-guess yourself,” he said. “Maybe we should've been in a three-man wall there instead of rugby. You second-guess yourself in games like this where your team is ready to play and excited to play."
But Kelly was also not happy that center Sam Mustipher snapped the ball early when Notre Dame was on the Wolfpack 16-yard line with a chance to tie the game late in fourth quarter.
Kelly dressed down Mustipher on the sidelines and after the game said this: "We're looking for wins, not improvement on one side of the ball or the other. Although, I was very pleased with our physicality, toughness and tackling. I'm just extremely disappointed in the offensive execution and lack of ability to manage the snapping of the football — which was atrocious as well."
This prompted swift reaction from the Notre Dame faithful. Here’s a sampling, via the K.C. Star:
The blame in South Bend actually started a few weeks ago when Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and replaced him with Greg Hudson. Notre Dame is 1-1 since then, but their defense looked anything but shored up in its 50-33 win over Syracuse last week. And things aren’t getting any easier for the Irish. Their remaining schedule looks like this: Stanford, Miami, at Navy, Army, Virginia Tech, at USC.
Something tells us this isn’t the last time the word “blame” will be tossed around Notre Dame this season.