Kelly addresses Shumate’s ejection, Kizer’s growth
Alex Carson | Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Early in the fourth quarter of No. 8 Notre Dame’s 24-20 win over No. 23 Temple on Saturday, safety Elijah Shumate was ejected from the contest for targeting, meaning the senior will miss the first half of this Saturday’s matchup at Pittsburgh — a penalty Irish head coach Brian Kelly said was irreversible.
“There is no appeal process,” Kelly said, referring to the suspension during his Sunday teleconference.
With Shumate’s absence for the first 30 minutes on the horizon Saturday, Kelly affirmed graduate student cornerback Matthias Farley and junior Max Redfield would be the two starters at the safety positions against the Panthers.
The targeting penalty overturned a third-down stop by the Irish defense, and four plays later, the Owls scored from the 1-yard line on fourth down to tie the game, 17-17.
Shumate’s ejection wasn’t the only contentious point for the Irish in the second half Saturday, as Kelly was seen forcefully restraining assistant strength coach David Grimes on the sideline following an offensive pass interference call, an action Kelly said was necessary to avoid a potential 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Following the game, Kelly faced criticism in the media for his sideline actions. However, the Irish head coach deflected those criticisms Sunday.
“They don’t know what happened,” Kelly said. “It’s typical of those that are just looking at the video without having any of the information. You know, only those that are clearly near the situation that have all the information can make those judgments.
“It’s an internal matter, and we’re handling it internally.”
Trailing by three and facing third-and-four from its own 31-yard line late in the game, Notre Dame needed sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer to step up and make a play — and Kizer delivered, completing a seven-yard pass to junior receiver Will Fuller for a first down, extending the drive. It was a play Kelly said was evidence of Kizer’s maturation.
“I think that’s a very big play that some people wouldn’t look at as — to me the mature quarterback makes that play,” Kelly said. “He stays with it, lets Will kind of find himself open, and shows great patience and changes his arm angle and makes a throw off-balance. It just says a lot about DeShone’s maturity and trust in his own ability in finding Will Fuller because that was probably in my opinion one of the best throws he made all night.”
Three plays later, Kizer connected once more with Fuller for the 17-yard, game-winning touchdown that prolonged Notre Dame’s playoff hopes.
The team felt Kizer’s impact Saturday both through the air and on the ground — the quarterback rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
“[Kizer’s] a dual-threat quarterback. We saw that with his ability to run the football,” Kelly said. “He’s got great escapability. I just think he continues to just gain more confidence in his ability, you know, to take over a game and win football games.”
Room for improvement
Despite another win to move to 7-1 on the season, Kelly said there’s plenty of room for his team to grow, both offensively and defensively, in its final four games.
“Cleaning up, obviously, mistakes in the red zone, [converting] scoring opportunities and then defensively continuing to shore up the lack of — giving up the big plays, and I thought we did a better job of that,” Kelly said on his team’s areas of improvement. “ … We’re moving the ball effectively, and then just keep competing in the back end of our defense. I think those are the keys for us as we keep moving through November.”
The Irish have failed to convert seven of 33 red zone opportunities this year into points, sitting 98th in the country in red-zone efficiency.
Martin’s pass interference
Notre Dame graduate student offensive lineman Nick Martin was flagged for pass interference during the third quarter of Saturday’s game — and Kelly still wasn’t sure Sunday what caused his center to be flagged for the rare penalty.
“I can’t explain the call,” Kelly said. “It was a screen. I’d have to dig deep in the rule book to find it in my 25 years. So it was a screen pass. I don’t know how they discerned that. There were a lot of things that I can’t give you answers for from that crew that worked the game.”
Once more, Notre Dame escaped suffering any more injuries during Saturday’s win over Temple.
“No, it was a good [injury] report,” Kelly said. “Everything came out really good, clean, you know, from our report at 1:45 [p.m. Sunday]. Good news on all fronts relative to those guys that were dinged up.”