SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Coach Brian Kelly concedes Notre Dame got lucky when officials didn't notice the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish used two players wearing the No. 2 when Pittsburgh missed a 33-yard field goal in the second overtime on Saturday.
The Irish (9-0) won 29-26 in the third overtime, but Pitt kicker Kevin Harper should have been given a second chance because Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson and wide receiver Chris Brown were both on the field wearing the same number. Kelly said Sunday it was a coaching mistake. He says he became aware of it after the play.
It was one of several lucky breaks the Irish got in keeping alive their national championship hopes.
Kelly says he doesn't believe teams are lucky. Instead, they are fortunate to find ways to win.
Kelly, who coached Cincinnati to a 12-0 finish in the 2009 regular-season before accepting the Notre Dame job and led Grand Valley State to Division II national championships in 2002 and 2003, said he doesn't believe he's ever had a lucky team.
I think I've had a team that's gotten some breaks along the way. But generally those teams have earned them along the way, he said.
The Irish (9-0) got lucky twice on one play in their 29-26 victory over the Panthers (4-5) on Saturday. In the second overtime, after Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood fumbled as he tried to dive in the end zone, all Pitt had to do to win was kick a field goal. The snap from center was a little high, then Kevin Harper's 33-yard field goal attempt sailed slightly wide right. The second bit of luck occurred when officials didn't notice the Irish had a pair of No. 2s on the field at the same time.
NCAA rules allow teams to have duplicate numbers on a roster, but not on the field at the same time. So the Panthers should have gotten a second chance with wide receiver Chris Brown wearing No. 2 in the backfield leaping to try to block the field goal and cornerback Bennett Jackson wearing No. 2 coming around the right end.
It was a coaching mistake, Kelly said.
It was one of several plays that the Irish got lucky on Saturday. On a fourth-and-4 play for Notre Dame early in the fourth quarter, with the ball on the Pitt 23, Everett Golson threw a pass to Tyler Eifert at the 8-yard line that was broken up by Pitt cornerback K'Waun Williams, who was called for pass interference. Replays appeared to show Williams made a good play. Golson completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones on the next play to cut the lead to 20-12.