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  • Kizer’s Bombs Subdue Syracuse

    by John Vannie

    DeShone Kizer passed for 471 yards, including three scoring plays of 54 yards or more, as the Irish overcame another shaky defensive outing to beat Syracuse by 50-33 on Saturday. Both teams put on a display of offensive fireworks in the first half, which ended with Notre Dame holding onto a tenuous 33-27 lead. On the flip side, the coverage by each team’s secondary was awful, and the flurry of missed tackles caused football purists to cringe in horror. The Irish romped for 654 yards on the day while the Orange fell just short of 500.

    The aerial barrage commenced immediately after the opening kickoff. Kizer fired a bullet over the middle that Equanimeous St. Brown took in stride and ran through a pair of would-be tacklers for a 79-yard score. Eric Dungey accepted the challenge and led the Orange right down the field to paydirt. For the second time this season, Jarron Jones blocked an extra point attempt, and this time Cole Luke did the honors with a scoop and two point score. Instead of a 7-7 tie, Notre Dame held a 9-6 advantage.

    Kizer found St. Brown again on the ensuing series, this time with a 67-yard rocket down the sideline for a 16-6 lead at the 11:23 mark. Dungey answered again moments later by hitting Amba Etta-Tawo, and the lanky receiver broke through half-hearted Irish attempts to bring him down to complete a 73-yard scoring play. The scoring barrage was not over, however, as C.J. Sanders returned the kickoff 92 yards for yet another Notre Dame touchdown. When the dust settled, the Irish found themselves in front by 23-13 and not even five minutes had ticked off the clock.

    Notre Dame threatened again later in the period, but two ugly running plays from the Syracuse two yard line ended in frustration. The Orange opened the second quarter with a similar challenge at the Irish one, but Dungey managed to get the ball over the goal line on fourth down to close the gap to 23-20. Despite getting a few minutes of rest, the Syracuse defense could not slow down Kizer, who capped a five play drive with a short scoring run.

    As this astounding half drew to a close, it was fitting that it ended with a bang. Another Irish trip inside the Orange ten ended with a sack and a field goal for a 33-20 margin, but a 74-yard punt return by Brisly Estime in the final minute set up a scoring pass from Dungey to Ervin Phillips. Syracuse could not capitalize on Kizer’s interception with a few seconds left, as Cole Murphy missed a 40 yard field goal before the teams staggered into the locker room.

    Notre Dame’s defense showed up and pitched a shutout in the third quarter, while the offense continued its assault. A 54-yard strike from Kizer to a wide open Kevin Stepherson was followed by an astonishing 59-yard scoring run by Dexter Williams. The sophomore ran the stretch play to the right side, saw a crowd, reversed his field, and ran away from the gasping Orange pursuers.

    Now ahead by 47-27 with the game entering the fourth quarter, things slowed down ever so slightly. Greer Martini broke up Dungey’s fourth down pass in the end zone to stop a Syracuse drive, and Justin Yoon tacked on a field goal to get Notre Dame to the half-century mark. Dungey came back with another short touchdown run to create the final 50-33 margin, but St. Brown had to recover an onside kick and Yoon missed a final field goal attempt to put a damper on his day.

    The Irish used numerous players on defense, and the strategy paid off in the second half as they settled down and forced numerous punts. Still, it was hardly an artistic performance as the Orange were obviously not a quality football team.

    Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:

    Can the Irish keep Syracuse on its heels with a balanced attack? Oh, yeah. The Irish went over, around and through the undersized Orange defense.

    Will Notre Dame allow Dungey to play pitch and catch in the short zones? Dungey did throw for 363 yards, so he had plenty of success. He had to be perfect for his team to have a chance though.

    Which special teams will make a positive impact on the outcome? Where do I start? Both special teams ran the entire spectrum, as Notre Dame had a kickoff return for a score and a blocked extra point return for two. Syracuse’s Estime had multiple dazzling punt returns.

    Can the Irish play with the passion and fire that Kelly is demanding? The sideline was much more animated, but there sure was a lot happening on the field to keep folks awake.

    Will Syracuse’s fast offensive pace negate any new wrinkles the Irish plan to implement on defense? Notre Dame did a better job in the second half, with both the pace of the Orange attack and in forcing them into more difficult third down situations. It may be best to pretend the first half didn’t happen.

    Can the retooled Notre Dame secondary cover Etta-Tawo? He shredded them early for a score and finished with seven catches for 134 yards, but honestly I thought it would be much worse.

    After VanGorder and Kizer, who is next to be thrown under the bus? Kelly’s comments coming out of the shaky first half made me wonder if he was going to fire himself, but everyone will live to fight another week.

    Any victory following a 1-3 start is welcome, but the uneven performance did little to convince the fan base that the Irish defense can stop the bleeding in its upcoming games. Fortunately, they face another mediocre opponent next week before the schedule becomes more demanding.

    51 Responses to “Kizer’s Bombs Subdue Syracuse”

    1. Maybe just maybe BVG was not the problem? Defense still pretty ugly.

      • While that’s almost certainly true, how much change can you realistically expect in one week? No one really espoused any grand ideas of totally revamping the scheme and the players are unchanged. The defense will probably be weak all year…

        • Jay Dunlap says:

          One step at a time. You can’t overcome the wasted years — and especially the wasted spring and summer of this year — in one week. But a win with some signs of hope in the second half could lead to a gradual turnaround…

    2. Carlos Bauza says:

      Got to admit it was The Keystone Cops! Lots of fun! Reminiscent of Harlem Globe Trotters?

    3. Looks to me like BVG was a big problem, mainly in the sense that he refused to play certain younger guys. Once they settled down the D was reasonable, although not good enough yet. But the young guys look like they can play.

      Lets see what happens next week..

      Go Irish

    4. Thank goodness this was Syracuse who has a worse defense than ND. Kizer has got to help his defense on 3rd down conversions, terrible just 3-12. The defense made 4 3 and outs in the 2nd half and the offense lays goose eggs against Syracuse! The D stepped up in the 2nd half, put pressure on the QB so hopefully they can build on this.

      • Wrong! Kizer doesn’t have to get better on 3rd down. The running game has to get better on 3rd down. It has to get better inside opponent’s 10 yrd line as well. Kizer is just fine.

      • You’re completely right! ND’s offense needs to make plays in the clutch to win games, which they couldn’t do against Texas and Duke. I thought the same thing watching the game, Kizer can’t make the right read and throw on 3rd and short to keep the chains moving. Luckily, Syracuse chokes more than ND, but against a halfway competitive opponent, ND will lose because Kizer cannot make the clutch plays. He has a great arm, and can make some good throws and reads, but he doesn’t get the team over the hump for the big win when they need him the most. He proved on third down against a horrible opponent that he is not a real competitor! Let’s see if he can get ONE clutch win against a quality opponent during his career because he hasn’t to date.

        • You can’t be serious. Kizer is one of the only bright spots on this team. To demand even more of him is not only unfair, it is absurd.

    5. You didn’t actually thnk that the stench of BVG system would disappear in 6 days, did you?

      BVG’s entire system was flawed, yet it’s already ingrained in the defense. It’s going to take a few weeks for changes to be evident.

      For all the carping that BK has done on Kiser, all Kiser does is make big plays. Yet, looking at Kiser on the field, he doesnt look like he’s having any fun whatsoever. BK will drive this kid to declare for the NFL and that’s too bad because in the right system, Kiser could be a championship QB.

      BK has had myriad years at ND to put together a consistent winner, but never seems to have one. Sorry, but ND has too much talent to lose to teams like Texas, Duke, etc. and after watching Bs meltdown press conference after the Duke game, I’m convinced he just isnt the right coach for the job at ND.

      ND should give Urban a call and see if they can lure him to South Bend, but I doubt he’d leave Columbs. ND needs a fire eating coach who coaches to win and not to lose all the time.

    6. How the F&CK did we get so bad on defense!!!???? Someone somewhere is not doing there job!!!! If these are 3,4,5 recruits someone is lying!!!!! As for BVG he should have been gone last year!!! Awful stunts, blitzing packages etc. I don’t want to here how they are young and inexperienced they are. Alabama and Ohio State have young guns and they are doing fine!!! This rebuilding crap every other year is getting pathetic and there is no room for patience!!! Settling to be average is not acceptable!!!!!

      • Bad on defense?? I’ll bet we are no. 1 in the country in blocked extra points returned for 2 points 😁😁😁

    7. EQ is proving elite

    8. Well, it’s a ‘W’! There are still 2-3 teams left on the schedule that have a definite potential to beat the Irish based on a pretty porous defense. Still seeing a lot of arm tackles and miss-ques. That will be harder to overcome against teams like Stanford and Miami. Of course, Stanford mis-fired last night.

    9. irishhawk50 says:

      Marginal improvement, but Syracuse was worse than Duke. Dropped a lot more passes. Still think Duke would have beat ND again today. Watching now Clemson-Louisville. Defenses on another plane from ND. Really don’t know what to think about ND’s future, just not elite anymore. Don’t know if Kelly can bring bring ND back ever. Sorry to say.

      • sungho oak says:

        Can’t agree more.
        Still in the times of losing to Tulsa and South Florida.
        I am not sure Kelly is the right one.
        We will get for the rest of his tenure what we got before which are some signature losses like FSU and Clemson and unthinkable losses like Tulsa.

      • I think we all know by now about Kelly, 2012 was a perfect combination of events, obviously a great defensive coordinator and a really solid defense, but it wasn’t so great, because BAMA dominated it in the BCS Championship. Even with a horrible D-Coordinator as an excuse, the offense is still very inconsistent, and doesn’t possess the intricate attention to detail to play to its full potential. For example, how often does Kizer not make the play on 3rd and short to keep the chains moving? How often do runs get tackled for a loss? How often do you have a 3rd and 3 and all the receivers are running 15+ yard routes? Kelly confuses a lot of people because his offense was better at CIncy with arguably lesser quality recruits. I just think ND is a coaching graveyard, he won everywhere else he coached, and I think he would do better at a large state school, it’s just not a good environment for football anymore. I think it has more potential than Stanford, but Stanford is currently the gold standard football program for elite private schools.

    10. I don’t understand why the ND defense seems to lunge at the opponent’s upper torso and doesn’t tackle low. Can someone please explain this to me?

      • I noticed that, too. Rather than breaking down and putting a shoulder into people it’s like slam dancing from the 1980’s where one person slams his upper torso into other other dancers. This is still a fundamentally poor defense.

      • It’s what you call bad coaching.

    11. El Capitano says:

      Today made clear that BVG was sitting on some guys who needed to play. Bonner, Cage, D Hayes, etc. all got lots more snaps today and came up big.

    12. TimmyIrish says:

      A win is always good, for sure. However, we are so far away from being elite it’s disheartening. Just finished watching the Clemson / Louisville game…I can’t even remember what is like to win a game like that…where ND is the underdog at home against a legitimate championship contender…trading hits and then coming up with a big defensive stop. Seems like we have nail biters against mediocre teams who we make look like contenders, and we simply are unable to keep up with the top 10 teams. Throughout the last 7 years, I’ve been a Kelly supporter, but, unfortunately, I just don’t think it’s going to work. Too much talent, not enough positive result. Hoping for the best the rest of the season.

    13. The fundamentals are missing from many parts of this team. It’s funny how special teams has improved and the defense has went down the toilet. I remember the Irish would have 8 punt returns yards all year in Kelly’s first few years.

      It’s also amazing how Notre Dame’s offensive players are amazing and the defensive players seem to be from another team. I really do believe Kelly is oblivious to anything outside of the passing game. He thinks if his offense can put up 50 and his defense can hold the other team to 35 a championship will result.

      I think we all know that with a team built like this a few turn overs make for close games or a loss to teams they should beat, and a horrible record against top 10 teams.

    14. Carlos Bauza says:

      The Stench of the (“defense”?) is still characteristic. What went missing after 2015 that Nothing was done to clean this up?

    15. Irish Jerry says:

      I can’t believe some of the dump BK comments, don’t you remember how bad it was under Bob, Ty and Charlie. And Lou had some clunkers as well. News flash Ara is not coming back, Urban is not coming nor would the administration want him.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        So just because Brian Kelly is better than three of the worst coaches in ND history, we should just suck up the 8-5s and pray for a miracle?

        Sorry, I’d prefer ND be more proactive. No coach is perfect, but I can think of a few I’d want to take a flyer on, and none of them are named Urban.

    16. Kizer has another great game. I enjoy watching this kid. Leader. Other than that it’s just another year of mediocre coaching. I hope both DK and BK are in the NFL next year. Offense wins games, defense wins championships.

    17. Concur with those above who note that the D settled in and played better as the game went on; very good sign. Note BK’s post-game presser comments about the big changes he and the Hudson-led defensive coaches have started to install. Especially striking was the indication in response to a question that it was actually easier to begin putting in the new and clearly simplified cover schemes with all the frosh d-backs as they had less “muscle memory” from the BVG era.
      All of which may lead to some stirrings of hope, we shall see. NC State may be doable, and it would be good if the team (and we the fans for that matter) can rally around to wake up some echoes against a suddenly vulnerable looking Tree (whom it would truly be wonderful to defeat).
      Thanks as always, Vannie, for the effort you put into these.

    18. Also, I see one of the Rack’s House gang (giggity_giggity) talked about a replay of the game. Is there one, anyone? I live in France and tend to be less linked in to the resources available. Merci d’avance!

    19. It wasn’t pretty but it’s a win which should boost morale a bit. First half looked like a vintage Van Gorder D with ND giving up a first down or big chunk plays on almost every down. They seemed to settle down and stiffen in the second half. Hope that carries over to this week.

      Still not convinced that Kelly is the man to lead the program going forward. He’s been given everything he wants, the schedule has been gamed so that there’s more home games and truer few road games and yet we still get 7-5 or 8-4 seasons. Not to mention the SEC style banditry and academic scandals every off season.

    20. USAF Irish says:

      The defense finally clicked in the second half and started to look promising. They looked like they were trying to make plays vs. trying not to make errors. I think they cleansed themselves of consistent failure, and today will give them renewed hope. Our defense will be much better next week.

    21. irish rifle says:

      Good win. Scored a lot of points, but could have scored more. While Kizer put up great stats and made some excellent throws, he also badly overthrew a wide open receiver who was 10 yards in front of the nearest defender and also made several other bad throws. He seems to have a tendency to lollypop simple short throws instead of throwing them crisply, which leads to incompletions.

      Play calling on the goal line continues to be infuriating at times. How about just running the ball right up the middle with Adams behind a massive offensive line instead of running wide or trying to trick the defense?

      The defense showed considerable improvement in the second half – a very good sign. Hopefully, this will be a trend throughout the remainder of the year. Agree with other posters that Hudson deserves a chance. I for one believe that he will be a considerable upgrade over BVG and his ridiculously complex system.

    22. Ellen Bush says:

      Still time after this season to get a new coach. Kelly needs to go. The team doesn’t seem to even want to play for him. He certainly doesn’t inspire the kids who need an encouraging leader. Go Irish and get rid of your coach.

      • Easier said than done, especially considering his contract extension.

        • Mike Coffey says:

          Let’s not forget at the time of that extension, Kelly was still hoping for an NFL exit. So it’s possible the buyout provisions are not onerous.

    23. Duke loses against a very, very bad Virginia team this weekend and Michigan State flops against
      a very average Indiana team. And Nevada loses to one of the worst D 1 schools in Hawaii.

      Texaas loses again..

      Need I say more? Kelly must go!!

    24. I am constantly reading about people wanting to fire Coach Kelly and getting someone else in there and admittedly, last week, I was ready to clean the whole house. Does anybody on the staff there at ND Nation or anyone else know whether or not Urban Meyer was ever offered the job at ND years ago, but turned it down because he could not recruit the kind of players he needed to win there? If the Administration at ND restricts who can come to ND on a football scholarship, we had better hold on to Kelly. I mean seriously, what great coach out there is going to come to ND if his hands are tied in recruiting? There are only really a few really great college coaches out there anyway. I doubt any of them will come. In my opinion, Coach Kelly is a good and not great college football coach. He is very good at evaluating potential offensive talent and does very well with Quarterbacks. If he could find someone on the defensive side of the ball who is as good as he is on the offensive side…you would have ND back again. Until that happens, I don’t think we can expect much more then what we are currently seeing each week.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Brian Kelly, effectively, has been given everything Urban Meyer asked for when he was offered the job back in 2004. He gets plenty of academic breaks in admissions. Michael Floyd didn’t miss a game after his DUI, and the four players busted with pot haven’t missed a down. And yet with all these concessions, we still are playing 8-5 football.

        • Thank you for your response Mike. My son and I have been arguing about this issue all season. He believes the team is failing because of coaching…period. ND has the athletes. I have said that it is coaching yes but…the administration will not let Kelly bring in the type of players in numbers you have to have to win. I want to be wrong. Anyway…we don’t tackle…lanes are so gaping anyone could run thru them ….receivers totally wide open…lapses in special team coverage…on and on. It is embarrassing to watch. I am not sure ND will ever again reach the level we need to line up and play teams like Alabama…Ohio State, etc. The years we thought we had something…we found out pretty quick we couldn’t play with them. Thanks again for your responsse.

        • Mike, Can you name coaches that you believe are better then Kelly, better for this program and school and who are most importantly available for us to get? You consistently rebut anyone who defends Kelly but have offered no specific solutions to replacing him. I’m not under any delusions that this program is where it needs to be, nor do I defend everything about him or some of these inexcusable losses but I do think we live in an immediate gratification world with a 24/7 news cycle in which no one remembers what happened a week ago much less years ago. If Kelly was a good enough coach to navigate us to an undefeated regular season, that included plenty of good wins, relying on defense with timely clutch plays, I can’t assume he all of a sudden forgot how to coach. I think a lot of this falls on the players underachieving, Van Gorder in general and the difficulty in playing with a very young team. And please don’t tell me Ohio St and Alabama do it every year. We all know this they are the exception to the rule and are littered with 5 star recruits all over the field. We cant recruit with either of them.

          • Mike Coffey says:

            I can name a bunch of coaches better than Kelly. I don’t know any more about a coach’s “availability” than anyone else, including you.

            It’s not like VanGorder was a brilliant coach who had a stroke just after kickoff of the Texas game and all of a sudden became terrible. His defenses were awful the last two seasons, and all logical sense demanded he be fired after the bowl game, if not after Stanford. But Brian Kelly, against all logic, retained him, which means one or more of a couple things:

            1) He didn’t think he needed to be replaced, which means he’s an idiot
            2) He knew he needed to be replaced, but either (a) didn’t know of anyone better, or (b) couldn’t convince anyone better to take the job, neither of which should fill any ND fan with confidence.

            We have six seasons of data on Kelly. In one of those seasons did he “navigate us to an undefeated regular season”. The results in the other five have been sub-par, and even in that “undefeated regular season”, we got our doors blown off in embarrassing fashion in the bowl game.

            Unlike you, I believe Notre Dame can and should compete for national championships, and can and should recruit with OSU and Alabama. If you don’t, hike up your skirt and find a different website.

            • So if I take into account the last 20 years of “data” which shows me that we haven’t been able to consistently recruit in the top 5 or so particularly on defense then I’m the fool or better yet need to “hike up my skirt and leave the website” Kelly can coach with just about anyone in the country. Are there 5-10 coaches I’d prefer, sure but in many cases the coach that wins the title has top 5 talent. Urban doesnt go to Tulsa to show hes great coach he gets all the best players and then does a good job winning. You think ND has nearly as much talent as Bama? Sorry I cant exactly compare Saban and Kelly when one is working with filet and the other chop meat. You either can’t see that and you think we are losing because of coaching and not lack of talent or you think Kelly sucks at recruiting and we can find a better coach for that part of the job? Of course Kelly has done a better job of recruiting then the previous 3 coaches but your holding out hope that the Houston coach for example would come here and all of a sudden we would have Alabama recruits dying to come to South Bend. Sorry, we dont have a decent pass rusher and any Dbs that can cover-no one is winning with this D.

            • Mike Coffey says:

              You’re comparing Kelly to three of the absolute worst coaches ever to coach at ND. So no, I don’t put a lot of stock into what happened in those years.

              I don’t think ND has Alabama’s talent. I do think, with effort and the right staff, they could get pretty damn close.

              If Kelly is working with “chop meat”, it’s his own damn fault. The admin has given him break after break after break, but his shortcomings limit what ND can achieve on his watch. Don’t believe me, ask off the record people who actually cover ND recruiting, they’d agree with me.

              If “no one is winning with this D”, again, it’s the fault of the coaches. We can and should recruit a lot better. If you want to be a defeatist, that’s on you. I demand better.

    25. Agree that little steps are all we can expect and I am happy we won but….lets all open our eyes and deal with reality.
      BVG may have needed to go but the fact that we have no depth fall back on BK and recruiting. Also the horrific special teams coverage has not improved in 7 years. When we have a bad D we need good Special teams so the field isn’t flipped back to the opponents advantage on punts and kick off. this is on Kelly. the offense with no identity is on Kelly. Other than long passes –bombs –what is our offense. No running game, no red zone offense and inability to put a drive together when needed.
      Baby steps during the season are good but for ND to be a top 25 team ( not even thinking of top ten) consistently we need more that a baby step. we need a big step. goodbye to BK would be a reasonable start

    26. marleyman says:

      A much needed win. However what takes the wind our of my sails is that Kiser will be gone after this demonstrably mediocre (probably 8-5 at best) season. How many years have been wasted and how will next year be any better?

    27. J DOUGHERTY says: