SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Though some might argue that fourth-ranked Notre Dame has been more lucky than good at times this season, especially in its triple overtime victory against Pittsburgh, coach Brian Kelly doesn't believe that.
He believes good teams make their own breaks, or at least take advantage of the breaks that come their way, not in the luck of the Irish.
"I've never had a team that's won because it was lucky. But I've had many teams that were fortunate because they were good football teams and they found a way to win," Kelly said.
Kelly, who coached Cincinnati to a 12-0 finish in the 2009 regular-season before accepting the Notre Dame job and led Grand Valley State to Division II national championships in 2002 and 2003, said he doesn't believe he's ever had a lucky team.
"I think I've had a team that's gotten some breaks along the way. But generally those teams have earned them along the way," he said.
The Irish (9-0) got lucky twice on one play in their 29-26 victory over the Panthers (4-5) on Saturday. In the second overtime, after Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood fumbled as he tried to dive in the end zone, all Pitt had to do to win was kick a field goal. The snap from center was a little high, then Kevin Harper's 33-yard field goal attempt sailed slightly wide right. The second bit of luck occurred when officials didn't notice the Irish had a pair of No. 2s on the field at the same time.
NCAA rules allow teams to have duplicate numbers on a roster, but not on the field at the same time. So the Panthers should have gotten a second chance with wide receiver Chris Brown wearing No. 2 in the backfield leaping to try to block the field goal and cornerback Bennett Jackson wearing No. 2 coming around the right end.
"It was a coaching mistake," Kelly said. "We had put our desperado team on there and Chris Brown is part of desperado. We've got to do a better job, an oversight that can't happen."
It was one of several plays that the Irish got lucky on Saturday. On a fourth-and-4 play for Notre Dame early in the fourth quarter, with the ball on the Pitt 23, Everett Golson threw a pass to Tyler Eifert at the 8-yard line that was broken up by Pitt cornerback K'Waun Williams, who was called for pass interference. Replays appeared to show Williams made a good play. Golson completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones on the next play to cut the lead to 20-12.
It's the kind of luck Notre Dame's been having at home this season.
The Irish beat Brigham Young two weeks ago 17-14 after Riley Nelson missed a wide-open Cody Hoffman on a play that looked like a certain go-ahead touchdown. A week earlier, Note Dame beat Stanford 20-13 with a goal-line stand in overtime even though the Cardinal believed Stepfan Taylor scored on fourth down, and possibly even on third down.
The Irish also needed Tommy Rees to come off the bench to lead the Irish to a last-minute field goal to beat Purdue, and beat Michigan by just a touchdown. Notre Dame has won its five home games by a total margin of 23 points. Its average margin of victory on the road is 28 points. Kelly is at a loss to explain.
"We're really trying to figure that out. It might just be it is what it is," he said.
Kelly said he hopes the Irish learn from the narrow victory over Pitt they can't have any letdowns.
"You have to play your very, very best or all these games are going to come down to one or two plays," he said. "Hopefully they've learned from that."
Because they don't want to depend on luck.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)