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Willie Fritz, analytics, NC State, and the hurricane game against Notre Dame

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There’s a scattershot headline for you.

Notre Dame v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Since little of note is happening in NC State camp right now (and hey, a quiet camp is by no means a bad thing), I did some wandering through the news, which is how I found this article about Tulane head coach Willie Fritz and how he became an analytics convert because of one play in 2014.

That play came in a loss to NC State while Fritz was the head coach at Georgia Southern. He kicked a field goal late in the game on a 4th-and-short, which put his team up 23-17 ... and the Eagles lost, 24-23, as you probably remember.

Fritz now uses an analytics consulting company called Championship Analytics, and that mention naturally led me to their website, where I found their newsletter archives from last season. And this:

The argument here is not that Notre Dame could have forced NC State to snap the ball more times—NC State killed the clock in five snaps with the strategy Kelly did use, and State would only have needed five snaps even if Kelly had called his timeouts on those first two plays. Run-run-knee-knee-knee happens either way.

It’s just that if he had used his timeouts on the first two plays, then NC State begins kneeling with, say, 90 seconds (probably more) remaining in the game. If the Pack does botch the first or second kneel-down snap, the Irish have a decent amount of time to work with from midfield. (Maybe 1:25ish if the first kneel-down gets fumbled away, :40ish if it’s on the second one).

The way Kelly played it, though, severely decreased the Irish’s chance of a game-tying score in the event of a turnover. Even if State fumbles the ball away after its first kneel-down, Notre Dame has aboutbout 20 seconds to go about 50 yards. In that weather? Nah.

A tying drive would still be unlikely with like 1:25 or :40 remaining, but safe to say the odds of success would be significantly higher.

So, not that it ended up mattering, but thanks again, Brian Kelly!

(Oh, uh, there’s also a tidbit in that newsletter archive about the Clemson-NCSU game if you’re into self-abuse.)