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Defensive fourth quarter struggles

The 119 points that Notre Dame's opponents scored during the fourth quarter looks even more eye-popping when compared to the Irish third quarter defense, which allowed only 16 total points all season. More than 44 percent of the points Notre Dame allowed last season came during the fourth quarter, which is the highest percentage in at least two decades. Only five Irish teams since 1991 have allowed less than 25 percent of their point total in the final 15 minutes. That's not always a great sign, though. The 3-9 Irish team in 2007 allowed only 17.4 percent of its points in the fourth quarter, which is the lowest amount in the past two decades.

Last week Blue & Gold senior editor Lou Somogyi noted that Notre Dame allowed more fourth quarter points in 2011 — 119 total — than in any year dating back to at least 1964 and possibly more than any year in program history.

Since Irish coach Brian Kelly arrived in 2010 he has preached the need about the advantage his players get from the strength and conditioning program he installed. Indeed, the Irish did look stronger late in the year during Kelly's first season and did not make a significant dip during November and December in 2011. Statistics seem to show, though, that the endurance advantage doesn't apply on a game-by-game basis. In Kelly first two season at Notre Dame, his teams have been outscored by a total of 60 points, which is more than any two year stretch in the past two decades.

An ability to close games on a good note could go a long way in explaining why the Irish have failed to break the eight-win plateau under Kelly, but we took a longer look at the numbers to find out if that was actually the case. Click on the "Start Photo Feature" button to see the results.

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