SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Coach Brian Kelly isn’t ready to declare the two-quarterback system dead yet at No. 18 Notre Dame. At least not officially.
He is also not about to panic after the Fighting Irish gave up 50 points in the opener to a Texas team starting a freshman quarterback in a season-opener for the first time since 1944.
Kelly blamed the 50-47 double overtime loss to the 11th-ranked Longhorns to an inability by the Fighting Irish to finish the game off on offense, defense or special teams.
“Offensively we had two opportunities to close out the game or at least put us in a really good position on the last couple of drives, and we came up with nothing. And defensively, obviously, we couldn’t come up with a stop,” he said Tuesday. “And special teams we weren’t able to flip the field like we thought we could.”
DeShone Kizer appeared ready to claim the role as the top quarterback heading into Saturday’s game against Nevada (1-0). Kizer outplayed Malik Zaire against the Longhorns, throwing for five touchdowns and running for another, and guided Notre Dame within field-goal range two other times on 13 possessions. The Irish failed to score on the three possessions Zaire played.
Kizer was 15 of 24 passing for 215 yards with a pass efficiency rating of 206.5 and rushed for 77 yards on 13 carries. Zaire was 2 of 5 passing for 23 yards with a 78.6 rating and had no yards rushing on three carries.
Kelly, though, said only that the Irish plan on “having two really good quarterbacks the rest of the year.”
“I haven’t sat down and talked with to either one of them, so before we do that we don’t have any plans to make any decisions,” he said.
He is more emphatic about the Irish defense, saying the widespread criticism of the unit by the media and fans was “Monday morning quarterbacking” and suggested “everybody needs to tap the brakes.” He warned against reading too much into the Texas game.
“What really happened in the Texas game was you had the offense that had a chance to win the game. You’re going to have to play some games where you outscore people,” he said. “Now if we’re 10 or 11 games into the season and we have to outscore everybody, I’ll take the questions. And I would say fair enough … If we’re 10 games into this and we’re giving up 50 points a game, I’ll have to answer your questions. Right now, as I said yesterday, I think y’all should relax a little bit.”
It marked just the eighth time Notre Dame has given up 50 points, all of them losses. The last time the Irish gave up that many points was in a 55-31 loss at Arizona State two years ago.
Kelly said the Irish coaches need to do a better job of coaching and players need to do a better job of executing.
“If we just do the ordinary things ordinarily well we’re in good shape. We have to do those better,” he said.
Notes: Kelly said receiver Torii Hunter Jr. sustained a concussion against Texas and it is not known whether he will be able to play against Nevada.
Online: AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org