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Friday at 4: Seven years later, it’s time to laugh at Notre Dame’s last trip to North Carolina State

Notre Dame v North Carolina State

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 08: DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is forced out of the pocket and tackled by Kentavius Street #35 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the game at Carter Finley Stadium on October 8, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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The statute of limitations is supposedly seven years. No one writing daily for the Notre Dame page on NBCSports.com has a law degree, and this brief column is not reason enough to reach out to a friendly lawyer to confirm that claim. But the statute of limitation is supposedly seven years, right?

It has been seven years — well, six years and exactly 11 months — since Notre Dame’s last trip to North Carolina State. It is time to laugh at it.

The Irish infamously attempted 26 passes, including 12 in the second half, amidst a literal hurricane. DeShone Kizer completed just nine of them for 54 yards and an interception, perhaps the sole excusable rough showing he delivered in 2016, and that excuse should be shouted first and foremost.

The game was played in a hurricane. When a literal hurricane makes its final landfall within 200 miles the morning of a football game, the game probably should not be played. The one saving grace of hurricanes, compared to tornados or earthquakes, is they are seen coming. There was plenty of time to recognize not only would the conditions ruin any resemblance of a competent football game but there were also far more important things to tend to in the Carolinas that Saturday. The resources devoted to a college football game — most notably the first responders — should have been elsewhere.

The scorebook from that afternoon notes the weather succinctly on the first page: “Hurricane Matthew.” It does not specifically note the lightning delay that lengthened the game to four full hours.

And yes, then-Irish head coach Brian Kelly was intent on throwing the ball. He did not care to adjust Notre Dame’s game plan. Of his occasional missteps in front of the media, criticizing center Sam Mustipher’s snapping was the rare one that was not overblown. Kelly deserved to be pressed on that blame-passing.

“Although I was very pleased with our physicality, toughness and tackling, I’m just extremely disappointed in the offensive execution and lack of ability to manage the snapping of the football,” Kelly said after that 10-3 loss.

It dropped the Irish to 2-4, on their way to the 4-8 debacle that reset nearly all of Kelly’s coaching staff, which then in turn sparked the resurgence that led him to take the LSU head coaching job in late November of 2021 and then the Notre Dame promotion of defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach.

As much as laugh at the North Carolina State game in 2016, the one played in a literal hurricane, maybe Irish fans should be grateful for it. The dominos it knocked over led to the current state of the program, a state that about 125 other teams would be envious of.

Yours truly was actually at a high school football game that day along a scenic lake in northwestern Indiana, enjoying earnest football in sunny 55-degree weather, laughing at the updates on his phone.

One friend likes to boast to this day that the only time he bet significant money on a football game was during halftime of that comedy in Raleigh, recognizing Kelly was not about to change tactics in, let’s say it again, a literal hurricane and the game would assuredly not see two touchdowns in the second half. He was right, the 3-0 Wolfpack lead at halftime ending up a 10-3 Wolfpack lead as time expired, the only touchdown coming on a 16-yard return of a blocked punt.

If anything, Justin Yoon deserved far more praise for his 40-yard field goal early in the third quarter. After praising him, laugh at the drive, a three-play drive that gained two yards and still scored points.

Kelly is now in Baton Rouge. Notre Dame fans need not worry he will ever recreate that decision-making — most public lamentings about his play calling were off-target, but calling 31 pass plays (including five sacks) deserved all the barbs directed at it. Then-offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. somehow became Western Kentucky’s head coach following that season and its seven one-score losses, a flummoxing decision at the time and one never squared with logic by the time he was fired after his second season.

Kizer’s career was undone otherwise, but Mustipher was not harmed in the long-term by Kelly’s strays, now entering his fifth season in the NFL and with 40 career starts for the Chicago Bears from 2020 to 2022.

Seven years later, that afternoon should be laughed at by all Notre Dame fans. Its long-term effects were arguably positive and the idiocy of the game itself is what makes college football such fun in the first place.

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