Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

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

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32 SEPT. 12, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED N otre Dame head coach Brian Kelly wanted to use two quarterbacks. It turned out his offense was better suited for just one, at least against Texas. Though junior DeShone Kizer and senior Malik Zaire split the repetitions in the first half, the Irish offense took off after halftime with just Kizer at the helm, fighting back to overcome a 17-point deficit and hold a lead for more than seven minutes in the fourth quarter. "It's never easy playing two quarterbacks," Kelly said af- ter the game. The seventh-year coach said he needed a game situa- tion to evaluate the two quar- terbacks. What he saw was Kizer go 15-of-24 passing for 215 yards with five touch- downs, while also producing 77 yards and a score on the ground. Meanwhile, Zaire, appearing in his first game in almost a calendar year, connected on only 2 of 5 throws for 23 yards, while rushing three times for zero yards in his three series. Nevertheless, Kelly wasn't ready to name Kizer the full-time quarter- back moving forward. "DeShone played a lot more than Malik. We'll have to go back and watch the film and evaluate it," Kelly said. "There were a lot of plays out there that DeShone would like to have back, too. We just have to sit back and find out whether it's a one quarterback situation or two." Both Kizer and Zaire were frus- trated when the decision was made in mid-August that the reps would be split against Texas. That was still the case in the week leading up to the opener. Kizer received the start against the Longhorns and led the Irish on a 78- yard touchdown march. The offense stalled, though, whenever Zaire put his helmet on and entered the game. Notre Dame finished with 444 total yards, 22 first downs and 47 points. With Zaire in the game, the Irish tallied just 40 yards, three first downs and zero points. All three of Zaire's drives ended in Tyler New- some punts. Despite the lopsided statistics in favor of Kizer — who fell to 8-4 as a starter — Kelly wants to see and evaluate more to make a decision. "I want to play better at the quar- terback position," Kelly said. "This is not centered around one position. I want to play better at all of them. If it means playing two, if it means playing one. "Now we have something that I can go and evaluate. We've got film to watch, and now I can go and make some informed decisions mov- ing forward." Kizer said in the weeks leading up to the opener he focused on elimi- nating rhythm from his game in an effort to prepare for the two-quarter- back plan against Texas. His system seemed to work, while he looked ef- fective against an aggressive Texas defense. "I just went out and played when they asked me to," Kizer said. "I don't know how coach plans on moving forward. We just want to win games, and this is a performance where I felt as if I laid a lot out there but obviously came up short." Zaire was not made avail- able to the media following the game. Texas head coach Charlie Strong — who rotated his own quarterbacks effectively against the Irish — gave his take on the Notre Dame sig- nal-callers. The coach said Kizer was the catalyst of the comeback. "Zaire, he gave us a lot of problems because he can run and throw. We knew that. Kizer can run out there, but when Zaire was in the game, we felt like we could load the box and take away his run game. "But I knew that they would ro- tate Zaire. We felt like they would rotate him the way they did. But at the end when they wanted to come back and win the game, they left Kizer in because he's a more productive thrower." Kizer said he's not sure about his job status after one game. Like Kelly, he'll evaluate where he is off the film. "There's a lot of good things I did in this game, but right now I'm only fo- cused on the bad ones, because those are the things that are on me," Kizer said. "The number of bad plays here is unacceptable. "There's a lot of points we left out on the board today. Obviously put- ting up 35 points offensively is a goal of ours and we plan on putting up as many throughout the season. There's 21 more that are just sitting there, and that's what hurt." ✦ ON THE BEAT MATT JONES Matt Jones..... Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2016. He can be reached at mjones@blueand- DeShone Kizer Shines, But QB Situation Remains Uncertain Junior DeShone Kizer accounted for 292 yards of offense and six touch- downs against Texas, but head coach Brian Kelly wasn't ready to name him the starting quarterback yet. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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