Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

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

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32 OCT. 31, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED B r i a n K e l l y w a n t e d some momentum. Unfortunately for the seventh-year Notre Dame head coach, neither quarter- back he sent into the game against Stanford gave him any. Junior right-hander De- Shone Kizer and senior left- hander Malik Zaire both saw the field in the loss to Stanford, an ugly 17-10 set- back that dropped the Irish to 2-5. Neither had success captaining a Notre Dame of- fense that finished with just 307 yards, the fewest for the Irish in non-hurricane con- ditions since a 282-yard ef- fort against Wake Forest on Nov. 14, 2015. Kizer, the face of the Irish attack and projected as a future first-round pick in the NFL Draft, was 6-of-11 passing for 79 yards in the first half. When he began the second half with back-to-back interceptions — the first returned for a touchdown — Kelly pulled the To- ledo, Ohio, native in favor of Zaire. "Malik is a really good quarter- back," Kelly said. "We really wanted to win, and I wanted to win for our guys. I thought maybe that change up would get us the energy back that we had lost when Stanford put some points on the board. That was the intent in that situation." Prior to the season, Kelly lauded his depth at the position, a situation some nationally ranked as the best QB room in the country. Kizer, Zaire and, if needed, sophomore Brandon Wimbush, a talented youngster red- shirting this season. The offensive-minded Kelly went as far as saying that two of Notre Dame's five best offensive players were its quarterbacks, the main rea- son for keeping the position battle going through the season's first week. When Kizer outperformed Zaire against Texas, Zaire was banished to the bench, seeing just 28 snaps in either mop-up or spot duty. But whether it was Kizer or Zaire against the Cardinal, the Irish offense went nowhere. This wasn't played in a monsoon like in Raleigh, N.C., a week prior. On a night with per- fect mid-October weather conditions against the nation's 54th-ranked de- fense — which had allowed 400-plus yards and 40-plus points in back-to- back blowout losses to Washington and Washington State, respectively — Notre Dame went nowhere. And much of the struggles came down to quarterback play. When nothing with Kizer was working, Kelly tapped into Zaire, hoping to "catch some lightning in a bottle." However, no spark was provided — just three drives that resulted in minus-nine yards and a safety. "That's coach's decision, and I'm going to block for whoever is be- hind me," senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "It doesn't change what we do. It's a decision that he made, and it's one that he stuck with and that's fine." There's no mistaking who Notre Dame's starter is moving forward. Kelly said Kizer is still the No. 1 quarterback, maintaining that the decision to remove Kizer against Stanford was simply to create energy when nothing else was working. Kelly said afterwards that he had no regrets about pulling Kizer. "I made it pretty clear that when you're in the throes of the game, you're trying to get the feel for the tem- perature of the game, and it just felt like we needed some momentum," Kelly said. "Malik is a really good quar- terback, and I just felt like at that time he would provide that for us. "And it takes 11 guys to give you momentum, too, but I just thought he would be a catalyst in that situation. But in no way, shape or form would I regret ever going to Malik Zaire." When Zaire went into the game, his teammates had full trust in him. "He's prepared. He's pre- pared just as hard as De- Shone," senior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. said. "I just put my faith in the coaches and my faith in Malik. Everybody was behind him. Nobody made a slick comment or anything like that. Everybody was ready to go. "That's just the mindset of this team, everybody trusts everybody." Kizer came back into the game for the final drive, leading the Irish to the 8-yard line. With 12 seconds left on fourth down, he was brought down for a short gain as the clock ex- pired, succumbing to heavy Stanford pressure once again. Stanford didn't change its game plan based on the Notre Dame quar- terback. The Cardinal followed their approach, which resulted in four sacks, a forced fumble, two intercep- tions, six tackles for loss, a defensive touchdown and a safety. Zaire finished 0-of-2 passing for zero yards. Kizer was 14-of-26 pass- ing for 154 yards. On an offense with the potential to be among the best in the country, the performances were jarringly bad — and fitting for a 2-5 team. ✦ ON THE IRISH BEAT MATT JONES Matt Jones..... Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2016. He can be reached at mjones@blueand- Quarterbacks Struggle In Loss To Stanford Head coach Brian Kelly turned to Malik Zaire (above) in the second half to "try to catch lightning in a bottle" in a season that has gone horrible. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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