Kelly pleased with Kizer, Redfield despite loss
Alex Carson | Tuesday, October 6, 2015
In his first collegiate road start, DeShone Kizer led No. 15 Notre Dame to the brink of a road win at No. 6 Clemson — and Irish head coach Brian Kelly said he was pleased with his sophomore quarterback’s performance on the big stage, despite the loss.
“I think we knew he was the guy that could handle the moment; he certainly was able to do that,” Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference.
Kelly saw a variety of throws from Kizer in Saturday’s loss and noted the sophomore is a quarterback that can do more than just manage a game.
“These kind of games you get a chance to see more of what he’s capable of,” Kelly said. “We saw the different throws, a sidearm throw on a big conversion to [senior receiver] Chris Brown. He just made a lot of different throws, so poised in the pocket, some toughness, and handled the environment. So I think you can safely say that he can win games for you.”
Despite the loss Saturday, Kelly said the Irish staff is more confident now than ever Kizer can lead the team to a title.
“I thought he showed great poise in the pocket, and I think it just added on to the fact that we’ve got a quarterback that can help us win a championship,” Kelly said.
Kelly said his team had a big opportunity to knock off Clemson but he wasn’t disappointed with the team Saturday.
“I’m not disappointed in our guys,” Kelly said. “I’m disappointed that they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that they had this weekend, and that was to beat a team on the road in a tough place to play and overcome the elements.”
The Irish were plagued all night Saturday by dropped passes, and Kelly said the Irish left yards — and a chance to win — on the field by not coming down with more catches.
“We had over 125 yards that we left out there,” he said. “So I thought we utilized the receivers that were getting the single coverage very well.”
Kelly said junior receiver Corey Robinson, who cost the Irish opportunities to score twice with key drops, has to improve his game in the future.
“Obviously Corey’s got to play better for us. He knows that,” Kelly said. “He’s got to make some plays for us, but he’s going to be involved in the offense as well.”
After throwing a touchdown pass to junior receiver Torii Hunter, Jr. to trim Clemson’s lead to two with seven seconds left, Kizer was stopped at the 1-yard line on Notre Dame’s subsequent two-point try — and Kelly said the Irish got the look they wanted.
“They gave us a six-man box. So it was six for six and we led the back up inside, and we didn’t do a very good job capping off the three technique,” Kelly said. “So we kind of stretched the play, and we did a poor job of blocking their nickel. We really had a favorable look, it was the look that we were hoping to get.
“After throwing the ball successfully down there, they went into their pass-coverage defense. So it was the right thing to do was to run the football down there, and they executed better than we did on that particular play.”
Kelly defended Notre Dame’s decision to go for two earlier in the game after scoring to cut Clemson’s lead to 21-9 early in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t chase the points until the fourth quarter, and our mathematical chart, which I have on the sideline with me and we have a senior adviser who concurred with me, and we said go for two,” Kelly said. “It says on our chart to go for two. We usually don’t use the chart until the fourth quarter because, again, we don’t chase the points. We went for two to make it a 10-point game.”
Had Notre Dame instead converted an extra point, and the game unfolded in the same way, the Irish wouldn’t have needed to go for two to tie the game in the final seconds — Kelly, however, said it’s easy to analyze in hindsight and that if Robinson had caught the ball, it would’ve been a moot point.
“Well, I mean, you’re obviously looking at the situation after the fact,” Kelly said. “If you look at it after the fact, you can draw any conclusion that you would like.
“ … Obviously, you know, if we catch the two-point conversion, which was wide open, then we just kick the extra point [at the end of the game] and we’ve got a different outcome.”
Despite still fighting a broken finger suffered in Notre Dame’s 38-3 season-opening win over Texas on Sept. 5, junior Max Redfield recorded a career-high 14 tackles Saturday, and Kelly said it was the safety’s best game yet in a Notre Dame jersey.
“This past weekend, [he] probably played his best game since he’s been here at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “So, you know, there’s a standard for him now on film for how he can play this game, and hopefully we can continue on this track. Now we’ve got the film to show it against a very good competition against very good athletes, we can show him the kind of play that he’s capable of.”
Sophomore offensive lineman Quenton Nelson suffered a sprained ankle late in the first half of Saturday’s loss, Kelly said. He noted Nelson’s status was uncertain for Navy’s visit to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.