Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 3, 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 31 of 55

32 OCT. 3, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED D eShone Kizer has never been through something like this. Notre Dame's junior quarter- back went 34-6 in his time as a starter at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio. In South Bend, he's been part of an 8-5 team in 2014 and helped lead the Irish to a 10-3 mark in 2015. That makes this year's 1-3 start — with losses to Texas, Michigan State and Duke, all as Vegas favorites — a challenge for the 6-4½, 230-pound leader of the Fighting Irish offense. "There are a lot of elite guys in there who have been playing elite football their whole life, and there's probably not a lot of us who have been 1-3," Kizer said after Notre Dame's 38-35 loss to Duke. "We're going to have to rely on the lead- ership of the coaches to figure out who we are and then build that con- fidence back up." A major part of the problem, sev- enth-year head coach Brian Kelly said, is a lack of passion on the play- ers' part. Want an example of what Kelly is searching for? Look no further than sophomore running back Dexter Wil- liams, who provided a bit of a spark against the Blue Devils, finishing the game with 24 yards on five carries and a 13-yard touchdown. "He's the only one. He's the only one that I saw. One guy," a disap- pointed Kelly said of Williams. Though Duke head coach Da- vid Cutcliffe is highly respected in the college football world, nobody thought his Blue Devils could com- pete with the Irish. Vegas agreed — Notre Dame was a 21-point favorite. The recruiting rankings spell that out: Duke's 2016 recruiting class was ranked No. 33 by Rivals, a jump of 30 spots over the 2015 class and by far the best group in Cutcliffe's nine years (the previous highest ranking was No. 55 in 2009). On paper, Notre Dame is stacked, with four- and-five star players across the board. But all that doesn't matter if there's no energy behind it. "I don't care what your résumé says, I don't care if you were a five- star, if you had a hundred tackles or 80 receptions or 30 touchdown passes, you better have some damn fire and energy in you," Kelly said. "We lack it. We lack it. Severely. "They can't burn for a long time. There's no passion. There's no pas- sion for it. It looks like it's hard to play. Like we're pulling teeth. You're playing football for Notre Dame. It looks like it's work. "Last I checked they were get- ting a scholarship to play this game. There's no fun, there's no enjoyment, there's no energy. We have to look for the guys that want to have fun and play this game with passion and energy." Kizer said bringing the passion and energy is part of the quarterback's job, but it also falls on his teammates. Like Kelly and Kizer said, some- thing needs to change. "We need to come together as a team and be more excited for games," sophomore wide receiver Equanime- ous St. Brown said. "We need to have that fire. I need to step up, and every- one else needs to step up as well." "There is definitely a way to bring passion," senior defensive end Isaac Rochell said. "It's tough when you're in the predicament we're in. We just have to find a way." "It's a fire that you're supposed to have every time you step on the field and the passion for the game, and that passion just lacked today," Kizer said. "We didn't have it. And that's going to be something that we're going to have to adjust mov- ing forward if we want to turn this season around." "It is a hard battle out there, and it's something we put our entire lives into … when you fall short, it's hard to think about it as just a game, but at the end of the day that's all it is," senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "It's 22 guys going out on a field and having some fun with it." Kelly was asked why the Irish don't play with that fire and passion. It shows up at times — heck, Notre Dame opened up with a 14-0 lead against Duke before falling flat — but like all phases of the team this year, it's been inconsistent. "I must be doing a poor job," Kelly said. "I've got to do a better job of finding out what those things are that are putting our football team in that position. But we've got to have more of it." Because, after all, losing is certainly no fun. ✦ ON THE IRISH BEAT MATT JONES Matt Jones has been with Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2016. He can be reached at mjones@ It's Not Fun For Notre Dame, And That's A Problem Head coach Brian Kelly has found himself at a loss while the defeats keep mounting for Notre Dame, with the 38-35 setback to Duke being the fifth loss in the last six games for the Irish. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct. 3, 2016