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Football

Green: Time to find out the truth

| Thursday, September 17, 2015

You’ve got to feel bad for Notre Dame, right?

The Irish closed out last season crippled by injury after injury on defense. This year, they’ve begun that exact same way, with the count now up to five starters done for 2015, and they still have 10 games left to play.

But these are the types of developments that must be making the executives and producers at Showtime, the home of the new series “A Series with Notre Dame Football,” licking their chops.

I mean, this is the kind of stuff that’s made for TV: The starting running back goes down with a torn ACL, and the replacement has to step up and hold down the run game in a road game not too far away from his hometown. The starting quarterback breaks his ankle, and his replacement leads an end-of-the-game effort capped by a touchdown bomb to the reliable, should-be All-American to retake the lead and keep the team’s undefeated season alive.

And then Showtime went a step even further, with shots of Malik Zaire distraught in the locker room after finding out his season’s over, then struggling with his new set of crutches to hobble onto the bus and plane.

It was an emotional and difficult scene for even the casual fan — let’s not pretend that wasn’t the desired effect from the show’s producers. Between the behind-the-scenes footage, sound editing and voiceover, it was a challenge to not feel bad for Zaire and the team he can no longer help on the field.

But that’s exactly what Brian Kelly doesn’t want his team to do. They’re in this to win a national championship, not wallow in self-pity.

“Everybody’s got to deal with some adversity, and this is our end of it, and we’ll be stronger for it,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I just don’t want to hear any excuses about it.”

No matter what types of emotions seeing Zaire’s response to his injury evokes, Irish fans don’t want to hear any excuses from this team either. But they also want the truth, and this is the week they’ll find out if the platitudes Kelly has been tossing around since the offseason are true, or if he’s just saying them because, well, that’s what head coaches are supposed to say.

Aug. 18: “This is, from an athletic standpoint and from a physical prowess standpoint, a deeper football team” — Kelly comparing his current team to the 2012 team.

When Kelly made this comparison during fall camp between this year’s team and the one that advanced to the BCS Championship Game, it was as though he was tempting the football gods to prove him wrong or to at least test that statement.

If this truly is one of the deepest, if not the deepest, teams Kelly has coached in South Bend — and if it outranks a squad that fell a win short of a national title, then you’d think it has to be tops — the Irish should still have a fighting chance at nabbing a slot in the College Football Playoff.

But Notre Dame is also down five players they thought would still be on the field at this point, let alone in January. Saturday will be a start to providing answers as to whether the depth Kelly praised will be the factor that gets the Irish through this rough patch of luck or if it nonetheless falls short in the face in the face of adversity.

Sept. 3: “He can go in there, and I would have absolutely no question about it, he can win for us. I want him to win a championship for us” — Kelly on DeShone Kizer.

Kizer indeed won for the Irish last week, but he attempted all of 12 passes in just over a quarter of work. We’ll find out this weekend if Kizer can win for Notre Dame or if he was graced with beginner’s luck — and as reliable a receiver a first-time quarterback can ask for in Will Fuller — against Virginia.

Before Notre Dame can worry about if Kizer can win it a championship, it must first make sure he can win the rest of the season, starting with a true test this weekend.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Mary Green

Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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