Lesar: Keys to the game for Notre Dame-Nevada

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune


The ol’ coaching proverb is: Don’t let a team beat you twice. Human nature says Notre Dame football players could have a hard time recovering from last week’s loss to Texas. This is where mental toughness comes in. It’s not like there is a conference championship still at stake. An early loss can do serious damage to the rest of the season. A solid performance against Nevada would be a great way to rise above the temptation for self-pity.


The second game of the season has been a tough one for the Irish during the Brian Kelly regime. They are 3-3 in the second game, with two of those wins being narrow escapes from Virginia (2015) and Purdue (2012), which were  like Nevada — significant underdogs. The Irish can’t allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security that would give the Wolf Pack an opportunity to feel good about itself.


In his first game under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey, Nevada senior quarterback Tyler Stewart (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) completed 74 percent of his passes in a 30-27 overtime victory over Cal Poly last week. He was good for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The Notre Dame defense, which didn’t get a sack against Texas, needs to get some pressure on Stewart to limit his efficiency.


One area of Nevada’s offense that has been impressive in recent years is its running game. This season appears to be no exception. Wolf Pack running back James Butler rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the debut. Notre Dame’s front seven can’t take this threat lightly. The Irish gave up 237 yards on the ground to the Longhorns. Butler needs to be a focus of the defense.


Give quarterback DeShone Kizer the keys to the offense and let him go to work. While the bulk of the attention this week has been on the struggles of the Notre Dame defense, Kizer’s development from a year ago under center has been significant. With playmakers like Tarean Folston and Josh Adams at running back, Kizer should have a little room to cultivate his relationship with young receivers like C.J. Sanders, Equanimeous St. Brown, et al.

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (14) hands off the ball to Tarean Folston (25) during the Notre Dame-Texas NCAA college football game on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016, at Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN