• Brian Kelly said the only thing he could or should say to the media after the game regarding his two-quarterback system with DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. You can’t make a declaration of Kizer over Zaire without first engaging in conversation behind closed doors.
But Notre Dame should not and cannot play two quarterbacks moving forward following its 50-47 double-overtime loss to Texas. Quite frankly, every offensive series is too important. The Irish simply may not have the luxury of searching for a rhythm at quarterback. Kizer has proven time and again that he has more than enough in all aspects of his game.
Quarterback does not have to be an issue on this team, other than the hurt feelings and the repercussions of those feelings as it relates to Zaire’s role within the team.
We saw evidence of it last year, but the game has slowed down so much for Kizer – most of the time – that you can see the wheels turning in his head, and that leads to patient, reasoned decisions.
Kizer threw five touchdown passes and nearly had a sixth when Torii Hunter, Jr. was concussed in the end zone, a drive that resulted in a missed field goal. He also ran for a score from 29 yards out and dispelled once and forever that the running aspect of Zaire’s game simply is not needed.
Kizer, who finished with 77 yards rushing on 13 carries, has all the running game the Irish need at the quarterback position.
This is an easy solution. The Irish must get Kizer in a rhythm early and often. Only then will Notre Dame be able to out-score its opponents.
• Uh, oh. Of the three down lineman, nickel-back personnel used most of the game by the Irish, Brian Kelly said: “It’s more about our personnel and matching our personnel against them. It’s about having the defensive personnel that best fits what gets our best players on the field more than anything else.”
Uh, oh. If that is Notre Dame’s best defensive personnel, they can’t stop deep balls with Cover 3, which is designed to prevent such mishaps at all costs.
If that’s Notre Dame’s best defensive personnel, Notre Dame is going to get bludgeoned – at the very least -- by Michigan State, Stanford and USC. (FYI: Nevada had two 1,000-yard rushers last year.)
If that’s Notre Dame’s best defensive personnel, they simply do not have enough talent up front on defense. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder countered by moving Isaac Rochell inside, but that weakens the Irish at end. Jerry Tillery is not nearly tough enough to be a consistent three-technique. Andrew Trumbetti will be vulnerable to the run all season. Jarron Jones has always been and likely will remain a part-time player. There’s not enough athletic ability at safety.
Uh, oh. It looks worse, much worse, than expected.
• Wow, Equanimeous St. Brown played the way Brian Kelly insisted he has played in practice. Quite honestly, in the nine open practices to the media combined between August of 2015 and August of 2016, we saw small flashes, but never anything like his performance against the Longhorns.
Brown said after the game that he had some trepidation in his first truly meaningful game at wide receiver, but only because he knew his upside. He took control of the moment and maximized it, finishing with five catches for 75 yards, including the first score of the game from 13 yards out and a cartwheeling sprawl into the end zone from 30 yards out.
“That was my first real catch as a starter and my first touchdown, so I was really excited,” St. Brown said. “I was a little nervous, but more excited because I know what to do. I’m confident in my ability.”
St. Brown’s second touchdown showed that he definitely is ready for the spotlight, which is significant moving forward as the Irish await the status of go-to man Torii Hunter, Jr., who suffered a head injury on what many believe should have been a targeting call.
“I just remember catching the ball and getting hit in my legs,” St. Brown said. “When I caught it, I saw orange, so I knew I was close to the end zone.”
A downfield threat as well as a red-zone threat, St. Brown already looks like he’s developed some chemistry with Kizer.
• Give new Texas offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert credit for transforming a Texas offense that was worse than anemic a year ago into a formidable unit that can pound you with the power of D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren, but appears to have a fearless triggerman in Shane Buechele, who gives way to Tyrone Swoopes in goal-line situations.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to have your chance, you’re going to have your opportunity,’” said Texas head coach Charlie Strong of Swoopes.
“At the end, I said, ‘Listen, we’re not throwing the ball. We’re going to line up and let the 18-wheeler just run over people.’”
Any other decision by Strong and/or Gilbert would have been foolish.
Texas’ receiving corps remains a work in progress, and for all of John Burt’s speed, he’s going to break your heart with dropped passes as much as he’s going to make your heart go aflutter on the deep ball.
Texas is going to need about as much offense as Notre Dame is going to need. The difference is that the Longhorns have a superstar in the middle in Malik Jefferson and a talented, athletic corps of defensive backs upon which to build.
Strong just took a huge step in preserving a job that remains on shaky ground, but was stabilized with a gutty performance when most young teams would have succumbed after squandering a 17-point lead.
Contrary to Notre Dame, Texas has a two-headed quarterback attack worth pursuing.