The next day, Brian Kelly’s biggest regret was Notre Dame let a game with Florida State come down to a point where a penalty he still insisted should not have been called could have so much to do with the outcome.
“I mean, you got to take the belt from the champion,” the Fighting Irish coach said Sunday, a little more than 12 hours after Notre Dame lost 31-27 in Tallahassee, Florida. “You can’t leave it up to a decision that’s made at the end.”
A decision Kelly disagrees with.
The Irish scored an apparent go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left against the second-ranked Seminoles on a 2-yard pass from Everett Golson to Corey Robinson on fourth down. The score was wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty and Notre Dame’s second crack at fourth down, this time from the 18, came up empty.
Kelly said after looking at the tape that his opinion about the play was unchanged. The Irish did nothing wrong.
In fact, if anything, Kelly said he was even more confused by the call now because officials informed him the flag was on receiver Will Fuller and not C.J. Prosise.
Both players jammed up the middle of Florida State’s coverage, allowing Robinson to cut to the outside uncovered.
Prosise seemed to lock up a Florida State defensive back, while Fuller was also in the scrum of two Irish receivers and three FSU defenders.
“Florida State blew the coverage and they got rewarded for it,” Kelly said. “So it’s unfortunate.”
The play was similar to one Notre Dame used to score a touchdown in the first quarter on a pass to Robinson. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Saturday night that after the first score, he had asked officials to be wary of illegal picks being set by Notre Dame receivers.
Kelly said the fourth-quarter play was different from the one in the first.
“We ran it out of a bunch formation,” Kelly said. “This is a totally different play, one we had not run before.
Kelly said Prosise’s job on that play is to get into the end zone, turn around and become a big target. The junior is 6 feet and 220 pounds.
“He was immediately grabbed at the line of scrimmage,” Kelly said. “I don’t know who saw it as interference but you’ve got two guys that are trying to fight for space. We saw it as such.”
Kelly said the ball was thrown so quickly Prosise didn’t have a chance to turn around.
“What you want to look for, is it truly a situation where the offensive player prohibits the defender from making a play?” NCAA coordinator of officials Rogers Redding said on Sunday. “It’s got to be obvious and the rule even says, ‘an obvious intent to impede.'”
Kelly said his players had no intent to impede.
Notre Dame’s first loss of the season dropped the Irish only two spots in the AP poll to No. 7. Golson had another excellent game, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns.
The Irish got 120 yards rushing from Tarean Folston on nearly 6 yards per carry, and they held Florida State to 50 yards rushing.
“Well, I just loved our guys, their mentality going on the road in a hostile environment,” Kelly said. “It really did not affect them. They played physical, controlled the line of scrimmage. We made plays against a team that had won 22 in a row.
“I think if we take something from this, when you get a team like this, you outplay them, you got to put them away.”
AP Sports Writer John Marshall in Phoenix, Arizona, contributed.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP