SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly finally let DeShone Kizer know on Wednesday he’s “the guy” at quarterback for the 18th-ranked Fighting Irish.
With that, the competition between Kizer and Malik Zaire came to an end, at least for now. The news didn’t come as a surprise after Kizer thoroughly outplayed Zaire in a 50-47 season-opening loss to Texas. The only surprise was it took until Wednesday for Kelly to let Kizer know he wouldn’t be sharing time with Zaire when the Irish (0-1) face Nevada (1-0) on Saturday.
“He told me I’d take the first snap for sure and then he kind of congratulated me on fighting through the process and encouraged me to maintain the same mind-set and assured me I’d be the guy on Saturday,” Kizer said.
Kizer threw for five touchdowns and ran for another and guided Notre Dame within field-goal range two other times on 13 possessions against Texas. 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 pass efficiency rating and had no yards rushing on three carries.
Kelly did not talk with the media on Wednesday. On Tuesday he said he would announce a decision after talking with the quarterbacks. Zaire, the starter last season until breaking his right ankle in the second game, didn’t speak with the media on Wednesday.
Kizer said he believes the competition with Zaire helped him become a better quarterback by making him focus more on each play.
“In the last eight months I learned quite a bit about myself as a quarterback, as a leader, as a teammate,” he said. “From that hopefully I developed into somebody I wanted to be for this season. Malik really challenged me and he will continue to challenge me. I’m really grateful for the situation.”
Kizer, who led the Irish to nine victories and a No. 11 ranking last season, said being able to take all the snaps with the starters should help him prepare better for Nevada.
“It helps with your mind-set,” he said.