DeShone Kizer shines in Irish victory over the Orange
Renee Griffin | Monday, October 3, 2016
Eighteen seconds into the game Saturday, it was hard to believe that the play of Irish junior quarterback DeShone Kizer had ever been called “below standard,” which is how his coach described his performance against Duke just one week earlier.
On the first play from scrimmage, Kizer tossed up a 79-yard bomb to sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown that put Notre Dame up 7-0.
Just over three minutes later, Kizer again aired it out to St. Brown, again for a touchdown, this time for 69 yards.
By the end of the day, he finished 23-for-35 with a career-high 471 yards – the third-highest single-game total in the history of Notre Dame for a quarterback, behind performances by Brady Quinn and Joe Theismann.
Three of Kizer’s four touchdowns in the 50-33 win over Syracuse came in the first half: the two floaters to St. Brown, and one 3-yard rushing touchdown. More than 350 of his yards came before the break, too.
However, Kizer ended the first half by taking a sack that pushed the team out of field-goal range on the penultimate offensive drive and throwing an interception that allowed the Orange to score and pull within six points heading into the break.
Notre Dame (2-3) head coach Brian Kelly attributed those mistakes to Kizer “trying to do too much” and make up for the problems on defense that allowed Syracuse to stay close to the Irish early on in the game.
Kelly said he talked to Kizer about that problem during halftime and saw significant improvement in the second half, though the numbers he posted were far less gaudy.
“He puts too much pressure on himself,” Kelly said of his quarterback. “And he’s got to stop doing that. I told him ‘hey, you do enough,’ and I thought what I liked about him in the second half is that he dropped the ball down, took the easy completions, made the smart decisions and I think he needs to continue to do that.
“I thought the second half showed the kind of things that I was looking for him to do and he needs to continue to do that.”
Kizer agreed that the second-half offense was more promising than the first in terms of consistent and prolonged production.
“We were able to put together drives [after halftime],” Kizer said. “The first half, we had a bunch of highlights throwing the ball down the field and having one-play, two-play drives, but what we need right now is a way of being sustainable in our defense and our offense. The second half was a good example of that.”
Though the Irish have had no problems scoring points this season, and Kizer specifically has racked up major yardage, both he and Kelly were far from satisfied with the offense since its success had not translated to wins.
Kizer noticed that a major change from the losses to Duke and Michigan State the previous two weeks was the squad’s mentality and passion, which Kelly was critical of last week.
“It’s 100 percent attitude,” Kizer said. “Since we hopped on the plane to come out here, the entire team has had a smile on their face. …
“This week we came in with the idea that as long as the ball’s in our hands, we’re the only ones that can stop us.”
Furthermore, Kizer said the offense can do better than the whopping 50 points and 654 total yards it managed against the Orange at MetLife Stadium, making him even more optimistic.
“It was the sloppiest 50 points I’ve ever been a part of. The sloppiest 400-plus yards I’ve ever been a part of,” Kizer said. “I think that’s the best part about it. We’re having fun, we’re having a good time, and there’s still so much room to improve. …
“I couldn’t be happier, because I know that our guys are going to take the attitude that we had today and build on it.”