Like Clockwork

Notre Dame's offense used three timeouts in the first quarter Saturday night. It's not the first time head coach Brian Kelly has elected to use at least two to settle the proceedings, nor will it be the last.

Irish fans have little to complain about two games into the 2014 season. Sure a more explosive running game was expected, and yes, there've been more than a handful of dropped passes by Everett Golson's wide receivers.

It's been smooth sailing on offense, defense, and special teams -- that is, of course, with the exception of seemingly wasted early timeouts charged to the offense. Kelly elected to burn three during the game's first 13 minutes Saturday evening including one to begin the contest.

At one point, Notre Dame had snapped the ball four times -- with the four snaps bookended by two timeouts.

"We just were a little slow tempo-wise," head coach Brian Kelly offered post game. "I think the moment was a little big for us. I will use those timeouts if I don't think I've got the right start to the game, because they really don't mean much to me in the first half.

"I think I can manage the offense in the first half. Now, they're very important in the second half.

"But, I'm more interested in getting it right early on and getting off to a good start. So if I have to use a timeout and communicate with Everett on some things I was okay using them up. Because we weren't moving in the right tempo, we were -- we just needed to polish up some things early on, and we cleared them up.  And then, I think after we used that third timeout, we got our tempo right.  We were able to pick things up a lot better and start to move the football."

It's not an infrequent occurrence for the Irish in the first half, and they're not alone. A few examples of multiple first quarter timeouts from both sidelines:

2010 Utah: Kelly calls two first quarter timeouts (consecutive possessions). No points result, no extra stoppages were needed at the half's conclusion.

2011 at Michigan: The Irish offense uses three timeouts by the 11:12 mark of the second quarter. It nonetheless converts a field goal (with more than a minute remaining) on its final possession of the half to take a 24-7 lead.

2012 Purdue: On Notre Dame's second drive the Irish offense burns two timeouts just three snaps apart. Both stoppages however result in third-down conversions on a drive that ends in a short (missed) field goal.

2012 at Michigan State: Notre Dame is issued a false start, followed by a timeout prior to running it's first play against the Spartans. A punt predictably ensues thereafter.

2012 Michigan: The Wolverines take two first quarter timeouts and don't score on either drive.

2012 Stanford: The Cardinal burn two timeouts within a three-snap span to begin the second quarter. Notre Dame's offense uses a first quarter timeout as well. Stanford's two-timeout drive ends with Notre Dame blocking a short field goal.

2013 Michigan State: The Irish use two timeouts on their second possession in a three-snap span (a field goal ensues). Of note: Notre Dame executed an end-half drive, using its lone saved timeout, and scored a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining. More perplexing was that the Irish called that final timeout with the clock already stopped due to first down yardage at the Spartans 2-yard line.

2013 at Pittsburgh: The Irish burn two first quarter timeouts. It could be argued the Irish needed at least one of those to take back possession in the final 1:20 of the first half as Pittsburgh failed to gain a first down but was able to burn 48 seconds prior to a long punt to end the half.

Not Just Coach-speak

It's relevant to note that Kelly is correct in his assessment that he can easily manage the offense in end-half situations without a timeout. There wasn't one instance in either the 2012 or 2013 football seasons in which Kelly's offense was burned in a late-half drive because it lacked timeouts.

Tuesday, Kelly took time to explain the three quickly used timeouts from Saturday night's contest.

"The first timeout, Golson) wasn't aware that the 25-second clock started at the ready for play (to begin a contest). He thought it was on the snap. So, as you saw, he kind of walked out there after we broke, and he looked around and he was kind of taking it all in. I don't know if the moment was too big, he just wasn't aware of that particular situation," said Kelly.

"The second timeout that we used was not being aware of the clock (Golson). The third timeout was really my fault. You know, we had a particular play called down in the red zone, and on my game sheet I have a box for my concepts, pass concepts, and it wasn't on the pass concepts.  It was in the red zone. So I was looking on the concepts for the play, and it was (omitted) in the red zone.  So it was a little late getting in.

"I think it was everybody…It was a great atmosphere, and I think we're all kind of just getting into it.  But once we got our rhythm down I think it started to go smoothly."

If Kelly can improve upon anything in terms of his timeout management it would be the ensuing result -- the Irish converted just one first quarter timeout into a same-drive touchdown over the last two football seasons (the loss to PIttsburgh last season) and through a 2-0 start to 2014.


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