Equanimeous St. Brown

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Notre Dame defense suffocating Miami in South Bend

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DeShone Kizer has thrown two touchdowns in the first half to help give Notre Dame a 20-7 advantage on visiting Miami. The defense of the Irish has played one of the best halves of the season against Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes, holding Miami to just three rushing yards.

Notre Dame started off as well as they could have dreamed, with a touchdown drive to open the game for an early lead. Kizer connected with Torii Hunter Jr. from the five-yard line for the score. Miami’s offense then lost eight yards on a three-and-out on their first drive, setting Notre Dame up with a great chance to do some more early damage. Notre Dame was held to a field goal, but the defense then picked off Kaaya on Miami’s third down on the ensuing possession. This time, Notre Dame cashed in with a touchdown with Kaaya finding Equanimeous St. Brown from 14 yards out.

Miami did catch one break in the first half on special teams by recovering a fumble by Hunter Jr. that led to a Miami touchdown a few plays later (Kaaya completing a pass to David Njoku for the score). But that has been just about all Miami has managed to do against Notre Dame so far. Miami has been flagged six times for 55 yards too.

Michigan State survives late Notre Dame rally to win 36-28 in another classic

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College football is often a game of runs. No game was a better example on Saturday night than the latest classic between Michigan State and Notre Dame.

The Irish opened scoring with a nice quarterback scramble from DeShone Kizer to go up 7-0 in the first quarter but watched rather helplessly as the team found all sorts of ways to allow the Spartans to take control of the game.

During a 36 point run by Michigan State, just about every wild thing that could go wrong did for Notre Dame. There was a muffed punt recovered in the second quarter that was followed quickly by quarterback Tyler O’Conner lofting a pass into the end zone that receiver Donnie Corley simply snatched away from the hands of a defensive back.

As if that play was bad enough, the Spartans converted a two-point conversion out of a swinging gate formation, recovered another fumble and picked off Kizer to help fuel the run. It was an impressive swing of momentum that seemed to signal a runaway in South Bend.

The Irish had other ideas however.

Kizer eventually started to make things happen and helped swing momentum back in favor of the home team by finding Equanimeous St. Brown, who made a circus catch in the corner of the end zone to kick off a 21 point run.

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Notre Dame cut Michigan State’s lead to just one score with over six minutes left when Kizer found Durham Smythe for yet another touchdown pass and it was the Spartans who suddenly found themselves in a second half drought.

Kizer eventually got the ball back with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter but was sacked on third down to end stop a streak of three straight touchdown drives. With 3:37 left, Brian Kelly curiously opted to trust his defense and called a timeout to punt the ball instead of going for it on fourth and seven.

The decision would end up costing the Irish head coach as Michigan State salted the game away behind a clutch O’Conner throw and some quality runs Gerald Holmes.

The win gives the Big Ten another big non-conference victory early in the season and should vault MSU even higher in the polls as a potential conference title contender.

As for Notre Dame, it could be a long season for Kelly and his staff with such a young and inexperienced defense. The Irish still have a few remaining marquee games left but dropping two of their first three all but knocks them out of the College Football Playoff race and could signal some potential changes coming on the team as soon as next week.

Texas leads Notre Dame, 21-14, at halftime as QB picture comes into focus for each

AP Photo/LM Otero
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Both Notre Dame and Texas kicked off the 2016 season still uncertain who would, or should, be their team’s starting quarterback this fall. Consider this season opening game a live audition of sorts. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly started by alternating his two quarterbacks, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, each series the Irish had the ball. Texas head coach Charlie Strong was a bit more reserved, starting the game with Shane Buechele for one full quarter before getting Tyrone Swoopes onto the field following a timeout. As the first half drew to a close, if that is enough of a sample size to base any important decisions, it appeared Kizer and Buechele were establishing themselves as the top options for their respective teams after leading, or finishing, two touchdown drives each. Buechele and Texas have the edge on the visiting Irish, 21-14 at the half.And what a half it was.

And what a half it was.

Notre Dame was first on the scoreboard when Kizer completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown to cap the opening drive of the game. The two had tried hooking up on the first offensive play of the game, but Kizer’s pass attempt fell incomplete. Fortunately for the Irish, running back Tarean Folston broke free for a 54-yard gain after breaking a tackle through the line of scrimmage. With a few blockers opening up a huge piece of open field on the right side of the line, Folston put the Irish inside the red zone for the first time this season. A few plays later, on 1st and 10 from the Texas 13-yard line, Kizer tried finding St. Brown once again in the end zone for the early touchdown. St. Brown later caught a fantastic pass from Kizer and did a somersault into the end zone after planting his hand on the ground to keep his movement going toward the end zone.

Buechele led Texas for a touchdown on Texas’ first possession, and he later finished off a second touchdown drive midway through the second quarter. He looked sharp as well with a good deep ball and perfect placement, and he received some good help from his receivers as well. Buechele dropped a perfect pass on the edge of the end zone sideline that was able to be hauled in by Armanti Foreman to tie the score at 7-7.

Texas later put together an impressive 16-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, which saw Swoopes make his season debut before Buechele finish things off with a short touchdown run from the one-yard line. After the Irish tied the score at 14-14 in the second quarter, it was Buechele again showing off his arm and dropping a ball in the hands of 68 yards to Jerrod Heard, who was taken down at the one-yard line. With a first and goal from the one-yard line, it took Texas three tries to push across the goal line against the Irish defensive line. It was Swoopes who took the snap and dashed to the right edge of the line with Notre Dame stacking the middle.

It was an eventful first half between the Longhorns and the Irish. In the second half it will be fascinating to see how the dynamic of the offensive decision-making goes at the quarterback situation. Texas has gotten some really good stuff through the air from Buechele, although Swoopes has produced on the ground. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is still getting most fo their offensive production with Kizer on the field.

DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire alternate offensive series for Notre Dame vs. Texas

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Heading into the 2016 season opener on the road against Texas, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly remained firm on the idea of using two quarterbacks during the game. DeShone Kizer got the start for the Irish against the Longhorns, while Malik Zaire has to wait his turn. Kizer got the Irish off to a quick start right out of the gate, helping give Notre Dame an early 7-0 lead.

Kizer was just 1-for-2 on his opening series to the 2016 season, but the one completion was good for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Irish the first score of the game. Kizer found wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown one a first down inside the red zone after missing on a pass attempt to St. Brown on the first play of the game. Notre Dame’s opening drive was highlighted by a 54-yard run by running back Tarean Folston, putting Notre Dame just inside the red zone.

On Notre Dame’s second offensive series, Kelly gave Zaire his first chance to lead the offense this season. It was less productive with just one pass attempt falling incomplete after a pair of rushing attempts for Folston. Kizer returned on Notre Dame’s next offensive series and completed two passes for a total of seven yards before taking a sack on a third and 13, leading to a punt.

Keeping true to his word, Kelly continued to alternate quarterbacks by sending Zaire out for Notre Dame’s next offensive series, which continued as the first quarter came to a close.

So far there is no reason to suggest one quarterback is ultimately better than the other, although Kizer is responsible for the only touchdown drive so far (again, boosted by a big run by Folston). Will this continue for the entire game, or will Kelly settle on one guy at some point this evening?