Notre Dame is 0-1. And it is somebody's fault. Right?
It's always somebody's fault when you talk about Notre Dame. And people are talking about who is blame for the 50-47 double overtime loss to Texas on Sunday night.
The first person getting the hard look was ND defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. It was bad enough that VanGorder was running the defense a year ago, a defense which allowed 373 points.
The Irish, who had only 10 returning starters on offense and defense, argued that they would be young this season and grow into their roles. The inexperience didn't show on offense, where an offense led by DeShone Kizer (more about that later) produced enough points to win a couple of games.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
But allowing 50 points will generally put you in the L column. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly didn't want to hear the chatter about the defense, especially about a unit regarding VanGorder.
When asked in Tuesday's weekly press conference if VanGorder, who replaced Bob Diaco as the ND DC a few years ago, was the long term answer, Kelly said: "If we're 10 games into this and we're giving up 50 points a game, I'll have to answer your question.''
For a little perspective, Notre Dame's team in 1966, which went 9-0-1, had a defense which allowed 38 points all SEASON. The 1988 national championship football team under Lou Holtz didn't allow its 50th point until the fifth game of the season. The 2012 ND football team which went 12-0 before losing to Alabama in the national championship game allowed 52 points in its first six games.
No one is comparing this ND team to anything yet. But the remaining games on the schedule are not filled with Monsters of the Midway opponents. Of the Irish's five ACC opponents--Duke, Syracuse, NC State, Miami and Virginia Tech, only Miami and Virginia Tech look like serious challenges and both of those games are in South Bend. The Irish play Army and Navy, both very beatable. So is Nevada in Saturday's home opener. The annual battle with Stanford will be a challenge but it is in South Bend and the regular season closer is at USC, which was just hammered by Alabama on Saturday. And Michigan State, the only Big 10 opponent on this season's schedule is said to be in a transition season and that game is also in South Bend.
It is a schedule which could yield 10 or 11 wins, which would put the Irish back in the playoff discussions.
Kelly's training camp decision to go with two QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire sounded nice in theory. Both QBs have skills. Zaire was the starter last season before an ankle injury sidelined him for the season, while Kizer helped the Irish reach a 10 win season.
Kizer started against Texas and led the team on an opening game TD drive. Then, as promised to the QBs, Zaire came in on the next series and went 3 and out.
Kizer was the reason the Irish came from 17 points down. He had a better game and may be a better QB. Kelly made a mistake in making the promise of alternating series at the start. This wasn't the spring game in South Bend or this week's home opener against Nevada. This was Texas, as flawed as it may be, and Big Boy football. Kizer should have stayed in the game until Texas proved it could stop him.
Kelly says he and his staff have still not made up their minds as to who the starting QB will be against Nevada.
Please. There should be no debate. Chances are Zaire will get more than enough playing time against Nevada--once the outcome of the game has been decided.
And Kelly better know who his QB is against Michigan State or the Irish could have more problems, ones caused by a 1-2 start.
That should not happen. But Kelly can not let this season get away from him, especially with a defense which has yet to prove it can play at the same skill level as the offense. If it doesn't, this Killer D unit could ruin ND's season..[/membership]