Notebook: Notre Dame's Brian Kelly flips after quarterback gimmick flop

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The official stats will show that Malik Zaire made his fourth collegiate start on Saturday as a wide receiver.

Though the Notre Dame senior was more like a running back on the play, picking up four yards on an end-around run on the first Irish offensive play from scrimmage.

But when the former Irish starting quarterback touched the ball a second time, resulting in a 12-yard loss in a 38-35 Irish upset loss to Duke at Notre Dame Stadium, he may have lost his bid to be an occasional offensive gimmick.

“We have got some plays, but that's short lived now, too,” Kelly said of his Zaire arsenal. “After him taking the ball and not throwing it away after we sprint out and moved the pocket for the specific reason — that if there's any kind of pressure, you can throw the ball away. So, you won't see that again.”

The two plays comprised Zaire’s first high-leverage snaps since sharing QB snaps with DeShone Kizer in the season-opening loss at Texas on Sept. 4.

Kelly wasn’t enamored with Kizer either on a day when the junior passed for a career-high 381 yards and tied for team-high rushing honors with 60 yards on 11 carries.

“Below standard,” Kelly growled. “It's not acceptable, his play.”

Which prompted a question about possibly unredshirting sophomore Brandon Wimbush.

“That's a possibility,” Kelly said. “That's a definite possibility.”

At last

When Nevada sophomore Korey Rush recorded a sack against Purdue in a noon ET start, it left Notre Dame as the only remaining team among the 128 in the FBS without a sack.

Finally, after 99 pass attempts by opponents this season, including 20 Saturday, linebacker Nyles Morgan recorded ND’s first sack of the season with 8:07 left in the third quarter. It forced a fourth down and coaxed a punt from Duke.

ND’s previous sack came from linebacker James Onwualu on Jan. 1 against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Looking out for No. 1

Offensive guard Quenton Nelson on Saturday became the fourth Notre Dame player honored with being awarded the No. 1 jersey — and the first unable to wear it in the game.

Because NCAA rules require interior offensive linemen to wear a uniform number between 50 and 79, Nelson donned his usual No. 56 and left the No. 1 jersey in his locker.

A new wrinkle introduced by Irish head coach Brian Kelly this season, the No. 1 jersey rotates weekly and is awarded to the player whom the coaching staff believe exemplifies the ideals of Notre Dame on and off the field.

Linebacker James Onwualu, cornerback Cole Luke and running back Josh Adams were the previous honorees.


• Duke safety Deondre Singleton missed the first half of Saturday’s game after being ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter of the Duke’s loss at Northwestern last week.

But he made a big play in the second half, picking off Kizer late in the fourth quarter at the ND 45 and setting up Duke’s game-winning, 19-yard field goal.

• Sophomore Miles Boykin recorded the first reception of his career — a 20-yarder on third down to keep a drive alive.

• Scouts from two NFL teams — the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins — were in attendance on Saturday.

• Kizer’s first-quarter eight-yard TD run was his sixth straight game with a rushing touchdown. It was the fifth overall rushing TD this season and 15th of his career.

• Irish kicker Justin Yoon was credited with his first career tackle.


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (14) runs the ball as Duke’s Alonzo Saxton II (21) and Bryon Fields (14) tackle him during the Notre Dame-Duke NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA