Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2018*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 52 of 55 OCT. 8, 2018 53 in the game, head coach Dan Devine made a last desperate bid by turning to Montana. Not only did he rally the Irish to a 31-24 victory, but he would lead the "Green Machine" to the national title while finishing out 10-0. 2. Tony Rice (1987) Ineligible as a 1986 freshman, option wizard Rice was behind incumbent Terry Andrysiak, while freshman Kent Graham, who would play a decade in the NFL, had the best arm on campus. The Surge: A regular-season ending injury to Andrysiak in a game four loss at Pitt suddenly put Rice in the spotlight. Much like Book with offen- sive coordinator Chip Long, Rice was deemed a more ideal fit into second- year head coach Lou Holtz's offense. Rice directed five straight victories (including versus Pac-10 champ USC and No. 10 Alabama) with mainly his running skills while completing only 42 percent of his passes. The Irish did lose their last three games, with a healed Andrysiak re- gaining his starting role in the 35-10 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M in his final game. Better days would be ahead for Rice, highlighted by the 1988 national title and a school-record 23-game winning streak. 3. DeShone Kizer (2015) In the spring, it appeared the red- shirted freshman would wind up on the scrap heap, while Everett Golson and Malik Zaire vied for the top role. Kizer floundered in the spring game and said he even contemplated switch- ing to baseball. The Surge: Golson transferred in the summer and Zaire, after a scintillating opener, was injured in game two. Kizer threw a dramatic 39-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left to defeat Virginia, posted the high- est efficiency rating ever by an Irish sophomore quarterback and was 9-1 at the throttle heading into the regular- season finale at Stanford. He led a long touchdown march and scored the go-ahead touchdown with about a half-minute left to move ahead of the Cardinal, 36-35 … before losing on a field goal on the final play. The Irish fell to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-3. After starting every game the next season as a junior, Kizer was a second- round pick in the NFL Draft. 4. Matt LoVecchio (2000) He enrolled as the third-best quar- terback prospect in that recruiting class alone at Notre Dame, behind the dy- namic option specialist Carlyle Holi- day (who would later shift to receiver) and the burlier Jared Clark (who would later shift to tight end). Plus, Arnaz Battle was the starter, and Gary Godsey was a contingency plan. The Surge: Battle suffered a season- ending injury in game two versus No. 1 Nebraska, and Godsey, after a fine start and win versus Purdue, was inef- fective at Michigan State. LoVecchio took over as a true fresh- man in game five and had the best freshman season ever by a Notre Dame quarterback in terms of efficiency, pro- duction and leading victories. He was 7-0 as the starter during the regular season, throwing for 980 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception — and adding 300 rushing yards. Sports Illustrated listed him as a Heis- man dark horse as a sophomore, but he eventually lost the job to Holiday and would later transfer to Indiana. 5. Tommy Rees (2010) The unheralded three-star prospect finished the spring, Notre Dame's first with Kelly, as the No. 3 option behind five-star Dayne Crist and walk-on Nate Montana, son of Joe. Incoming freshman Andrew Hendrix also was ranked higher than Rees. The Surge: After a 4-5 start and a season-ending knee injury to Crist, Rees stepped in as the starter and helped propel a "where did that come from?" 4-0 finish, including a win ver- sus No. 15 Utah, ending a nine-game losing streak to USC, at the Coliseum no less, and topping Miami in the Sun Bowl, 33-17. No quarterback has won more games as a starter (23) in the Kelly era, and that's not including three huge saves out of the bullpen during the 12-0 regular season by the current Irish quarterbacks coach. 6. Blair Kiel (1980) Talk about resembling 2018! In head coach Dan Devine's final season with the Irish, the Irish began 3-0 under senior quarterback Mike Courey — who was named ABC-TV's Player of the Game in the opener ver- sus No. 9 Purdue (a 31-10 win), just like Wimbush earned the game ball for the season-opening win versus No. 14 Michigan. The Surge: By game four for the No. 7-ranked and 3-0 Irish, the fresh- man Kiel became the starter to add oomph to the offense, just like Book was in game four this year for the No. 8-ranked Notre Dame team. Kiel didn't dazzle with his passing, completing only 38.7 percent of his passes for 531 yards and no touch- downs — but the Irish did not lose any of his next seven starts, although Courey also played on occasion, in- cluding helping the Irish rally to a tie at Georgia Tech. Notre Dame lost to No. 1 Georgia (17-10) in the Sugar Bowl, with Kiel starting and Courey playing in a bit role, to finish 9-2-1. 7. Steve Beuerlein (1983) Ranked No. 1 in the preseason by Sporting News, the Irish attack featured fourth-year starting quarterback Kiel, who would play eight years in the NFL. The Surge: After a 1-2 start, the reins were turned over to the freshman Beuerlein — who promptly won his first five starts. Kiel would take over the final two games, but Beuerlein eventu- ally would last 17 years in the NFL, the longest of any Irish quarterback. ✦ In 1980, freshman Blair Kiel was inserted into the starting lineup for the No. 7-ranked and 3-0 Irish to add oomph to the offense. He helped guide Notre Dame to the Sugar Bowl, where they lost 17-10 to No. 1 Georgia to finish 9-2-1. PHOTO COURTESY FIGHTING IRISH DIGITAL MEDIA

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