Of all the twists and turns in Notre Dame’s 29-26 triple-overtime victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday, the biggest break the Irish got was Kevin Harper’s missed 33-yard field goal in the second overtime, a kick that would have won the game and ended the Irish’s national championship dreams.
Turns out it was an even bigger break than everyone thought.
Both Bennett Jackson and Chris Brown were on the field for Notre Dame during the field goal. Both players wear No. 2, and aren’t allowed to be on the field at the same time. A penalty should have been called, which would have given Pitt a first down and a chance to score a touchdown or get an even easier field-goal attempt.
“It was a coaching mistake,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said on Sunday. “We had put our Desperado team out there and Chris Brown is part of Desperado. We’ve got to do a better job. It’s an oversight that can’t happen.”
But the referees didn’t notice, Harper missed the kick, and Notre Dame went on to win the game in the third overtime. Kelly didn’t deny it was a fortuitous turn of events, but said that no team can get to 9-0 on luck alone.
Most of the time you’re making your luck, and you are playing through some rough spots,” he said. “I’ve never had a team that won because it was lucky. I’ve had many teams that were fortunate because they were good football teams and they found a way to win.
“I don’t think I’ve had a lucky football team. I think I’ve had a good football team that has gotten some breaks and some luck along the way.”