Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer will grow from a bad day

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

PALO ALTO, Calif. — If mistakes really do provide learning opportunities, DeShone Kizer earned some credits toward a master’s degree last week against Boston College.

The Notre Dame football team’s redshirt freshman quarterback experienced some harsh growing pains — three interceptions (responsible for three of Notre Dame’s five turnovers) — in an underwhelming effort by the entire team.

Kizer tried hard to move beyond the 19-16 escape from Beantown, choosing instead to look forward to Saturday night’s showdown with Stanford, but there were too many unresolved issues that needed to be tied up.

“Quarterbacks can go one of two ways: They can become a bit shell-shocked and withdrawn in a sense (or they can stay aggressive),” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of the consequences of a dismal performance. “(Kizer) was not fazed at all. He stayed aggressive and stayed in the moment. He played much better in the second half.

“He is going to learn so much and take so much from (the) game that you sometimes can't practice. Better decision making, and the great thing about it is he's so committed and cares so much about wanting to be a better quarterback. It's a hard job playing quarterback at this level, and he learned a lot. He was humbled a little bit. It's going to be really good for him. He's going to take this and really build on it.”

In terms of relating mistakes to knowledge, Everett Golson must have left Notre Dame with a doctorate.

Anyway, Kizer is ready to apply what he’s learned.

“There’s a lot to learn from (the BC) game,” Kizer said. “There were a lot of good things that we did that we were able to evaluate and continue to grow off of and put it to (the Stanford) game plan as well.

“As a team, that wasn’t, necessarily, the best showing. We all understand that. We have to take from it what was there; a couple bad plays. I learned that I can’t put the ball in harm’s way anymore and move forward. That game is completely behind us now.”

In nine games as a starter, Kizer has completed 175 of 272 passes for 2,362 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has had nine intercepted.

During that time, defenses have thrown multiple looks at the youngster. Boston College tried to get creative.

“There were a couple things I didn’t key on like I should have, but I saw the defense pretty well,” Kizer said. “It’s not like they threw anything crazy at us; something we didn’t game plan for. I just put the ball in harm’s way.

“There are situations where you have to take a sack instead of throwing the ball down the middle of the field. It’s not a smart move by me.

“It’s understanding where you are and the situation of the game. Especially at the end of November, turnovers are unacceptable. We have to make sure we put up points and make sure every drive ends with a kick.”

In other words, no excuses.

Watch the tape. Adjust. Move on.

“The good thing now is that there’s one more game,” Kizer said. “We have a regular-season game this week. Everything is behind us. All the good; all the bad. It’s 100 percent Stanford now. We have one more opportunity to show who we are and to prepare as well as we can. We’re trying to show the world who we really are Saturday.”

Stanford is giving up 230.7 passing yards a game, tied with Army for 73rd in the country. The Cardinal have seven interceptions and 23 sacks. A relatively young defense may be a bit vulnerable.

Especially if the Irish bring a sense of urgency with them.

“We know that time is running out with Team 127,” Kizer said, repeating the mantra Kelly has preached all season. “We have one more opportunity to do something special for our school. As long as we can have the sense of focus … we’ll be successful like we have been in the past.

“There’s way too much on the line. We all understand it. This season has been special. This last game is our last hurrah. We want to finish as good as we possibly can.”

The mission is bigger than the guys on the field. Even with the rash of injuries this season, no one has been left behind.

“(Team) 127 doesn’t just consist of the guys who come out and play every week,” Kizer said. “(Team) 127 consists of the whole program. From the people who feed us, to (injured quarterback) Malik Zaire, who’s begging to be out there. Everyone.

“We know we represent something bigger than us. The guys who are lucky enough to step out onto the field completely understand and appreciate the opportunity.

“I believe that the understanding that this is not for the name on the back of the jersey, but the name on the front, will allow us to make something special out of this year.”

As long as the lessons learned are put to use.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick pats QB DeShone Kizer (14) on the back as the comes off the field during the second half of ND's 19-16 survival of Boston College last Saturday. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)