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Arizona State dashes Notre Dame's playoff hopes

TEMPE, Ariz. — Everett Golson compared it to playing with fire.

And not only did Notre Dame get burned, but the team’s playoff hopes went up in flames.

The No. 10 Irish turned the ball over five times in a 55-31 loss Saturday to No. 9 Arizona State.

“Our guys were ready to play,’’ Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘You can’t play sloppy like that. It’s ridiculous. What I’m upset about is how crazy it is that we saw everything [from Arizona State] for a week, the same stuff [Saturday] that we saw all week, and we turn it over five times.”

Golson threw four interceptions. Two of them were returned for touchdowns. He also lost a fumble. Arizona State (8-1) scored 28 points off the miscues.

“It’s all on me,” Golson said. “It’s the competitor in me. Sometimes I try not to give up on a play. That got us burned.”

Golson went 22-for-41 for a career-high 446 yards. But the turnovers proved too costly.

“You take one step forward, then two steps back, and then he comes back in the second half and does some really good things,” Kelly said. “He has to strive for consistency.”

The Sun Devils used Notre Dame’s three mistakes in the first half to build a 34-3 lead.

Notre Dame (7-2) nearly overcame all of the turnovers. The Irish scored 28 consecutive points to get within 34-31 with 6:37 left.

Arizona State answered by going 75 yards in five plays. Taylor Kelly completed a four-yard touchdown pass to Demario Richard with 4:29 left.

Notre Dame’s next drive ended when wide receiver Corey Robinson bobbled a pass and Lloyd Carrington grabbed the ball for an interception. He returned the pick 58 yards for a touchdown. Kelly added a two-yard rushing touchdown with 52 seconds to go.

“We battled back to get it to 34-31,’’ Brian Kelly said, ‘‘and we couldn’t come up with the big stop. But this game was not set up for us to rely on our defense to come up with a big stop. This game was set up for our offense to win the game, and we put our defense in such a bad situation.

“We battled back. Great resolve, great character. The kids are as good a group of kids as I have coached, but if you’re sloppy — I told them this isn’t rec ball. This isn’t CYO. There are no pats on the backs for being great competitors. We’re doing this to win. And we didn’t win the game.”

Arizona State remains in the playoff hunt. Notre Dame needed to win out to stay in contention.

Now, the Irish are left wondering what if.

“We came back and fought hard in the second half, but we weren’t able to completely execute,” said running back Cam McDaniel, who had two rushing touchdowns. “We were resilient in the second half after coming out flat, but it wasn’t enough.”

Email: lpope@post-trib.com

Twitter: @lamondpope