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Brian Kelly on Notre Dame: 'We're giving away ballgames'

BY LAMOND POPE

Sun-Times Media

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The recent numbers are ugly.

Notre Dame’s offense has turned the ball over at an alarming rate, and its defense has given up chunks of yards. Both trends continued in the Irish’s shocking 43-40 overtime loss Saturday to Northwestern.

‘‘We’re giving ballgames away,’’ coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. ‘‘Everybody is accountable, coaches and players alike. We all have to understand that we have to coach better and play better. But it’s pretty clear what our problems are. It’s not like it’s a mystery. We’ve got to get lined up. We’ve got to be more efficient defensively. We’ve got to grow up. And then we’ve got to take care of the football.’’

Notre Dame has lost three of its last four.

‘‘The reality of it is, we’re seven points away from being 9‑1,’’ Kelly said.

Instead, the Irish are 7-3 and out of the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll. Notre Dame was ranked No. 15 last week.

The loss Saturday featured a bit of everything, including a blocked extra point the Wildcats returned for two points. That play set the tone for later on, when the Irish decided to go for two after receiver Will Fuller’s third touchdown catch of the game gave them a 40-29 lead. The conversion failed, enabling Northwestern to force overtime with a touchdown, a two-point conversion and a field goal.

‘‘If we go and kick the extra point, who knows how the game ends?’’ Kelly said. ‘‘So that’s on me.’’

It might not have mattered much if Notre Dame didn’t allow 547 yards on defense. Or if the Irish didn’t turn the ball over four times (one interception, three fumbles).

‘‘I expected us to be in a couple of shootouts this year,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘I just didn’t expect to have nine turnovers in the last two weeks because I thought our offense would be able to bail out our defense. And that hasn’t been the case.’’

NOTES: Coach Brian Kelly said quarterback Everett Golson sprained his right (throwing) shoulder against Northwestern.

‘‘He felt like he could throw [Sunday] if he needed to throw [Sunday],’’ Kelly said.

† Defensive linemen Sheldon Day and Daniel Cage suffered sprained knees against the Wildcats.

Email: lpope@post-trib.com

Twitter: @lamondpope