Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

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22 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MATT JONES T here wasn't a more deserving person to lead Notre Dame's post-victory fight song than new defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. The 49-year-old former Irish line- backer — who took over an embat- tled defense just six days prior — was the unanimous pick by the players to lead the Victory March, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "Incredible. He's a former player, and I can't imagine how special that was for him," junior safety Drue Tranquill said of Hudson. And though the 50-33 Notre Dame win over Syracuse at MetLife Sta- dium in East Rutherford, N.J., fea- tured plenty of room for improve- ment on defense, it was a step in the right direction. Syracuse's high-powered offense started fast, keeping pace with Notre Dame's own big opening quarter. But some halftime adjustments proved crucial, and the Irish limited the Or- ange to just six second-half points. "We just had a little pep talk in the locker room to make sure we really put our foot down and just asserted ourselves on defense," junior line- backer Nyles Morgan said. Kelly fired third-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder before preparation for Syracuse's uptempo offense started. He was pleased with the team's response. "It was not an easy week to prepare," Kelly said. "The staff did a great job preparing for a very difficult offense. It's probably not the matchup you want when you're making a change de- fensively. … It took us a little bit to get acclimated to them, and once we did I thought our defense did a nice job." Offensively, junior quarterback De- Shone Kizer had another career day for the Irish. He completed 23 of 35 passes for a personal-best 471 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. After an embarrassing loss to Duke the week prior, Kelly was critical of Kizer 's play, wanting the quarter- back to raise his standard. Although Kizer put up huge numbers en route to a 33-27 halftime lead — he had 170 yards and two touchdowns through the game's opening period — Kelly said he liked his quarterback's sec- ond-half performance even better. "He has a tendency to want to do too much," Kelly said. "He puts too much pressure on himself. He's got to stop doing that. "What I liked about him in the sec- ond half was he dropped the ball down, took the easy completions, made the smart decisions, He needs to continue to do that." Notre Dame finished with 654 yards on offense (471 passing and 183 rushing). Syracuse had 489 yards (363 passing and 126 rushing). The Kizer-led attack was click- ing from the first snap. He found an open Equanimeous St. Brown across the middle on the opening offensive play, and the sophomore wide re- ceiver broke multiple tackles en route to a 79-yard touchdown just 18 sec- onds into the game. "To have the first play go the way it did got us off to the right start," Kizer said. "Then we put together a couple drives that led to 50 points. When you're still leaving out quite a few touchdowns, you're playing good ball." Syracuse responded with an eight- play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped by sophomore quarter- back Eric Dungey's three-yard run, but fifth-year senior defensive lineman Jar- ron Jones blocked the extra point and senior cornerback Cole Luke scooped it up and returned it for a two-point con- version. Then Kizer found St. Brown During an explosive first quarter on both sides, sophomore C.J. Sanders' 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown helped extend Notre Dame's lead to 23-13 less then five minutes into the game. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL Bouncing Back The Irish rebound from the Duke loss and Brian VanGorder's firing to beat Syracuse 50-33

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