Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer working to stay within himself

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Maybe DeShone Kizer just has to lighten up a bit.

Take time to enjoy the moment occasionally.

There were hints Saturday that the Notre Dame football team’s quarterback might be ready to loosen his collar a bit, but then he cycled back into a guy with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He had just thrown for 471 yards (23 of 35, 3 TDs, 1 interception) in a 50-33 dismantling of Syracuse – third most in Irish history (behind Brady Quinn, 487 vs. Michigan State and Joe Theismann, 526 vs. USC in 1970), and the most ever by an ND quarterback in a victory.

Yet, as he hobbled into the interview room, his long face was pocked with opportunities gone bad.

At halftime, coach Brian Kelly had to have a sit-down with him.

“He was much better in the second half,” Kelly said of Kizer. “He tried to do too much. He (took a sack) that took us out of field-goal range (late in the first half, when it was still a game).

“That, to me, was the conversation I had with him (at intermission). He has a tendency of wanting to do too much. He puts too much pressure on himself.

“He’s gotta stop doing that. ‘You do enough.’

“What I liked about him in the second half, he dropped the ball down. He made the easy completions. He made smart decisions.”

In the first quarter, Kizer had touchdown completions of 79 and 67 yards to Equanimeous St. Brown. After one score, while allowing himself to let loose and celebrate, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder accidently knocked down offensive guard Quenton Nelson (6-5, 325) in the process.

“The ground kinda shook a little bit behind me, that’s all I know,” Kizer said laughing. “Those knee braces all the offensive linemen wear can trip you up.”

After his three-yard TD run in the third quarter, he clicked his heels.

Kizer said the difference between his first and second half was that the Irish offense was able to put together drives – rather than highlight tapes – after halftime. Sustaining an attack is a goal for the Irish.

“Everybody feels … (Having to be perfect because of a shaky defense is) less about the unit and more about the numbers 1-3,” Kelly said of Kizer’s mindset. “The entire team felt 1-3. ‘You don’t have to put it on your shoulders. You just have to do your job. We’re all in this together.’

“That’s what happened with DeShone. He felt, ‘I’ve gotta go change this myself.’”

“We came in with the attitude, ‘If we’ve got the ball in our hands, we’re the only ones who can stop us,’” Kizer said.

He went on to sound like a guy talking to a priest in the confessional. He detailed the sins he committed with his interception. He talked about the points he left on the field, instead of celebrating the 50 he put on the scoreboard.

It’s happening. Slowly.

Trust will help him come around.

Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer (14) celebrates a touchdown during the Notre Dame-Syracuse NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN