Is Notre Dame's Meltdown a Sign of the Times for Coach Brian Kelly's Future?

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IDecember 30, 2011

No smiles from Kelly after this game.
No smiles from Kelly after this game.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) Notre Dame opened up a 14-0 lead in the third quarter of the Champs Sports Bowl on Thursday and seemed to have the Seminoles from Florida State on the ropes and groggy.

But instead of delivering a knockout punch, the Irish rolled over and played dead, allowing the Seminoles to score 18 unanswered points.

No heart, no finish, no offensive scoring drives when they mattered. Notre Dame may have changed head coaches, but it looked like the same team that Charlie Weis used to put on the field.

Same old 8-5 season, same heartless team—what has changed under head coach Brian Kelly?

When you look at the stats from this game, it looks like the Irish were in it all the way.

Total yards—FSU: 290, Notre Dame: 280

Time of possession—FSU: 29:51, Notre Dame: 30.09

First downs—FSU: 13, Notre Dame, 19

Turnovers—FSU: one fumble, Notre Dame: three interceptions.

So what was the difference?

No that would be too easy of an explanation.

The reality was, FSU never gave up, was always looking to make plays and was filled with excitement.

Notre Dame looked like a team going through the motions just waiting for the game to end.

Notre Dame continued their mantra of being the bowl-season punching bag. In the last dozen bowl games they've played in, they've only won two games.

Since 1994, the year that their 2012 recruits were born, they've had two 10-win seasons. That's just two 10-win seasons in the past 17 years.

These recruits they'll sign next year will have never known a period in the their lives where Notre Dame was relevant in college football.

The question is, when will they return to relevancy? How many years will Notre Dame give Kelly to continue such seasons before they turn to the next best hope?