Brian Kelly stood less than eight minutes from breaking Knute Rockne's all-time wins record at Notre Dame, but when he stood a few yards onto the Soldier Field turf Saturday, officials took issue with Kelly's stance.
Even as the Fighting Irish skipper – whose team utilized a 31-point fourth quarter to pummel Wisconsin – seemed merely to implore the officials to protect Notre Dame's best player – All-American safety Kyle Hamilton.
As Notre Dame, which led 24-13 midway through the fourth quarter, punted possession back to Wisconsin, Hamilton was pinned to the turf by not one but two Wisconsin defenders.
That tag-team effort did not result in a penalty. A red-faced Kelly wanted to know why the Big Ten officiating crew, led by referee Michael Cannon, had not flagged the Badgers.
His actions a few onto the playing surface did elicit a penalty.
“We had it pretty clear (on video). I mean, you know, when two guys take a run at somebody, I guess that's not targeting somebody,” Kelly said, “but if you try to stop somebody from going into the end zone, that's targeting.
“We just don't have it right, yet. Your eyes should tell you what's going on in the game, but sometimes we hide behind the rule book.”
“It wasn't officiated in the manner that I thought it should have been. So they thought because I went 3 feet out on the field that I should get a flag for them not officiating it correctly.”
Kelly defended his player – and in the process further energized a defense that feeds off the fiery, uber-talented Hamilton, who rose from the turf after the play and examined his right arm/elbow for injury.
Notre Dame three times picked off Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz after Kelly's penalty, and the Irish turned those interceptions into the game's final 17 points via a field goal and two pick-sixes.
It all helped the Fighting Irish set up one of this weekend's top games in a Saturday packed full of ranked battles: Notre Dame, No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 9 in the AP Top 25, hosts No. 8/7 Cincinnati.