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Kelly yet to make decision at quarterback; Hunter Jr., and Sebastian questionable for Nevada

| Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Following Sunday’s 50-47 double-overtime loss to Texas, No. 10 Notre Dame faced two important questions heading into a new week that ends with its home opener against Nevada.

What decision, if any, has head coach Brian Kelly made regarding the quarterback situation?

And, of course, how will the Irish (0-1) improve on a defensive effort that saw them allow the Longhorns (1-0) to rack up 517 yards of total offense en route to 50 points?

Irish senior quarterback Malik Zaire drop back to throw in Notre Dame's 50-47 loss to Texas on Sunday.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish senior quarterback Malik Zaire drop back to throw in Notre Dame’s 50-47 loss to Texas on Sunday.

For the quarterbacks, junior DeShone Kizer significantly outproduced senior Malik Zaire in Sunday’s loss, as the former accounted for 292 total yards and six total touchdowns, while the latter was held to just 23 total yards and saw the field sparingly in the second half. The two did, however, split time relatively evenly in the first half, which Kelly said was the plan heading into the game regardless of how it played out.

“I felt like we wanted to get these guys in early and give them the opportunity in the first few series to get into the ball game,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t — you know, in my estimation it doesn’t do much for them if they’re sitting and watching, so I wanted to get them in early, yes.”

Kelly added that a decision for Saturday’s starter against the Wolfpack (1-0) and the game plan in general would be made once the offensive staff was able to sit down and watch the film.

“I haven’t gotten a chance to — everything that we do, we do it within our group first,” Kelly said about evaluating the quarterbacks. “[I] haven’t gotten a chance to speak with the group, and I mean the group being the offensive staff and then the two quarterbacks. Once I get a chance to spend some more time with them, we’re really in the process of grading film and evaluating all three phases of our game.

“Once we do that and get a chance to sit as a staff and talk about it, we’ll have a better sense.”

Need for defensive improvement

While the defense played below the level of performance he wanted, Kelly said he did not agree with the notion that the defense was at fault for the loss to Texas. He did, however, acknowledge a need for improvement across the board on that side of the ball.

“We evaluate from week to week,” Kelly said. “Clearly, we’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better and we’ll continue to do that. We’re going to be obviously looking at those things today. But, you know, again, it’s like anything else. It’s college football and you’ve got young guys that you’ve got to coach, and we look to get better next week against Nevada.”

However, when asked if he would be taking a more hands-on approach with the defense, Kelly added that he is already heavily involved in defensive game-planning and does not plan to take over the play calling from defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“Everything that we do is collaborative. At the end of the day the defensive structure and what we’re doing is run through me,” Kelly said. “So anything that we do from a defensive standpoint has my signature on it. So, you know, I’m in the meetings. Brian and I are in communication, so anything more would be me taking on a role in more of a play calling and I’m not in that role, and I have somebody that can do that quite well.”

Irish senior running back Tarean Folston runs downfield during Notre Dame's 50-47 loss to Texas on Sunday.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish senior running back Tarean Folston runs downfield during Notre Dame’s 50-47 loss to Texas on Sunday.


Kelly noted senior receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and graduate student safety Avery Sebastian were still being evaluated after suffering head injuries in Sunday’s game, and the extent of time they could potentially miss has not yet been determined.

“[It’s] Too early to tell,” he said. “Both [Sebastian and Hunter Jr.] sustained head injuries, so they’ll go through our battery of tests and we’ll see how they are today and proceed from there. Really too early to tell.”

Additionally, Kelly said he has sent video of the hit which knocked Hunter Jr. out of the game for review with the hope of receiving an explanation as to why a targeting penalty was not called.

“Yeah, we sent the clip obviously to the supervisor of officials with the ACC, and we got confirmation back that that would have most likely have been a targeting call,” Kelly said. “We just don’t understand why that was not reviewed by the Big 12. I guess they’re going to be reaching out to them to find out why it wasn’t reviewed. But, you know, clearly, win or lose, player safety should be at the front of this game and we don’t believe that that was the case in this instance.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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