Veteran receiving corps fails to support Kizer
Brian Plamondon | Sunday, October 4, 2015
Throughout the week leading up to Saturday’s game, there was much sparring on social media between the Notre Dame receivers and the Clemson defensive backs.
On the field Saturday, the Tigers got the better of their Irish counterparts for the most part, but the Irish receivers didn’t help themselves with mistakes of their own.
As rain pummeled the state of South Carolina the entire weekend, Notre Dame receivers struggled to hold onto the football in tough conditions. All told, the group dropped six of sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer’s passes. And while the weather undoubtedly had an impact, Irish receivers instead took the blame.
“There were some drops today,” junior receiver Will Fuller, who had one of his own, said. “But we’re not going to make that excuse about the weather. We knew there was going to be some wet ball conditions, and we had been practicing with it all week. So we had to come down with the catches.”
For a team featuring veterans such as Fuller, senior Chris Brown and junior Corey Robinson, the Irish failed to adjust to the deluge, making life under center harder for Kizer in his first career road start. That trio — who hauled in a combined 155 catches last year — was held to just seven catches total, including at least a drop each.
Robinson particularly struggled, failing to come down with a long pass from Kizer that would have set the Irish up at the Clemson one-yard line and also missing on a two-point conversion pass that went off his hands.
“We had way too many offensive mistakes with penalties and with missed passes — whether it be a bad ball or a drop,” Kizer said. “It all comes down to us not executing the way the game plan had set for us.”
The most obvious missing component was Fuller, who entered the game with six touchdowns while averaging 113.5 yards per game. Fuller was matched up with redshirt sophomore cornerback Mackensie Alexander all game, a player who only allowed 20 receptions all of 2014.
“I wasn’t expecting him to play me [different],” Fuller said. “Just what he showed me on film. But they threw a lot of different coverages.”
“As a quarterback I didn’t necessarily exploit their weaknesses of them doubling up with Will until later in the game,” Kizer said.
“Each team we play is going to have their own way of coping for a great receiver in Will Fuller and we figured that it would be some sort of over the top help. We game planned against it.”
Although the Fuller-Alexander story line drew the most attention heading into the game, it was Brown’s fumble that was arguably the biggest mishap for Notre Dame’s receiving corps. With the Irish driving to tie the game in the fourth quarter, Brown lost the football on Clemson’s two-yard line to turn it over with 2:09 remaining.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Brown said. “I was just trying to score. I tried to do too much, and I paid the cost for it.”
Despite the struggles of the Irish receivers, Kizer performed well in the minds of his coaches and teammates.
“I wish we could have supported him better,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “Really proud of him. Proud of the way he competed. He … played well enough for us to win, let’s put it that way.”
“He can do it all,” added Brown. “He continues to just stay poised and never get down on himself. He continues to get better.”
Because of their struggles, the Irish receivers are hungry to make up for their mistakes but won’t alter their goals for this season, Fuller said.
“We’re going to continue to play hard for one another,” Fuller said. “Wherever that takes us we’ll be happy with that.”