Notre Dame Dicked Themselves On Some Late 4th Quarter Plays

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Down three with just a few minutes remaining in the game, Notre Dame was pushing the ball deep into Louisville territory and had a chance to take a late lead with a go-ahead touchdown. Facing second and goal from the nine yard line, it appeared the Irish would at the very least tie the game and send it to overtime. But Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was sacked on second down, and threw incomplete on third. Then kicker Kyle Brindza missed a chip-shot field goal, and down went Notre Dame. According to fantasy sports app Pivit, the field goal is the costliest play of the week, but the whole series is a disaster, in an interesting way. It'd be the second week in a row the Irish screwed themselves during crunch time, extending their losing streak to three games after a promising start to the season.

Pivit tracked in-game Win Probability for all college football games involving ranked teams this weekend. Their Win Probability is similar to Brian Burke's, but places more emphasis on team strength. Before Notre Dame's costly series of plays, an Irish victory appeared likely. But the sack on Golson lowered Win Probability 23 percentage points from 81 percent to 58 percent. Golson's incomplete pass reduced WPA 21 percentage points from 58 percent to 37 percent. And the missed field goal lowered WPA 37 percentage points from 38 percent to 1 percent. As seen in the chart below, near the end of the game, the Irish's chance at winning fell off a cliff.


But the drop as a whole is what's interesting, in that it came in three parts. The sack made overtime much more likely, but once the incomplete pass came in, with about a minute left and stopping the clock, the odds shifted drastically because the Irish now were going to attempt to tie—which as we saw is uncertain—and then give Louisville a chance to drive and kick a game-winner of their own, or possibly try their luck in overtime. These things happen on every late drive, but it's interesting here because we see three different permutations come out of three consecutive plays.


Below are the most and least helpful plays of the week.

Play Team WPA Qtr Time Down Distance Yd Line
Maty Mauk pass to Jimmie Hunt for 73 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. MIZ 0.23 4 12:30 3 8 73
Reggie Bonnafon pass to the right to DeVante Parker for 21 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. LOU 0.2 3 6:08 2 8 21
Mitch Leidner pass to the left to KJ Maye for 38 yards. MIN 0.2 4 6:27 3 6 63
Mitch Leidner pass to Maxx Williams for 10 yards. MIN 0.2 4 5:04 2 8 23
Patrick Ashford pass to Alex Ellis for 31 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. TEN 0.18 2 14:18 4 8 31
Kyle Brindza 32 yard field goal attempt is NO GOOD. ND -0.37 4 0:51 4 15 15
Tommy Armstrong Jr. pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El for 28 yards, fumble, forced by MIN-Briean Boddy-Calhoun, return for 2 yds to the Minn 4.
NEB -0.26 4 1:32 3 9 30
Everett Golson sacked for a loss of 6 yards by DeAngelo Brown. ND -0.23 4 1:30 2 9 9
Joshua Dobbs pass intercepted by Kenya Dennis and returned for 5 yard to MIZ 25. TEN -0.22 4 14:53 1 10 28
Everett Golson incomplete pass to CJ Prosise. ND -0.21 4 0:58 3 15 15