Notre Dame v. Texas ’16: Post Game 6-Pack

Notre Dame QB Deshone Kizer
Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame’s season started with a disappointing and unexpected loss in Austin last night in front of a Darrell K Royal Stadium crowd record of 102,000+.  Despite the loss, not all is lost for Notre Dame in 2016.  We learned a lot about the Irish the four quarters and two overtimes of heart stopping football we were treated to on Sunday night.

Here are my 6 key takeaways from the 50-47 2OT loss in this week’s post game 6-pack.

 1. Deshone Kizer has to be the starting QB at this point

This should be a no-brainer after that performance but so far there hasn’t been any announcement from Brian Kelly on the quarterback situation.  Kizer vastly outplayed  Malik Zaire and has me eating a whole lot of crow right about now.  I always said Kizer was talented and the better pro prospect, but I never thought he would outplay Zaire that badly, but he did and he deserves to start.  Moreover, the team deserves Kizer to be the starting quarterback.

Zaire looked more like a freshman than Beuchelle did in his first game back from hi 2015 injury. Kelly gave both a chance and Kizer made play after play.  Scrap the two-headed monster QB approach, have a small package of some goal-line runs for Zaire and get this offense scoring 40+ a game.  I hear sub-packages near the goal-line for running quarterbacks work these days.  Kizer’s six touchdowns performance will go down as one of the best performances from a ND quarterback in a loss and back up some of the hype that was surrounding him heading into the season.

2. Josh Adams needs more carries

Tarean Folston is a better inside and short yardage back than Josh Adams.  He’s shiftier and has better vision than Adams, but Adams has the home run potential and big play ability this offense needs.  Folston broke free of the defense on Notre Dame’s first drive but got drug down from behind (albeit on a horse collar).  If Adams get in the clear like that, he gone’s, baby.  Gone. Adams ended up only carrying the ball 11 times to Folston’s 18 and while Folston averaged a yard more per carry thanks to that 54 yarder.  Outside of that one carry, Folston averaged just 2.0 yards a carry.

Notre Dame’s strength on offense lies with its offensive line.  Both backs should get 15 carries at least next week against Nevada.

3. Why on earth did Brian Vangorder keep using a 3-man front?

Notre Dame surprisingly came out in a 3-man front to stop the uptempo, fast paced Texas offense.  Texas responded by running the ball at will against Notre Dame.  When Notre Dame adjusted and went back to its base 4-man front on defense, the Irish started to get stops. With the game on the line in the 4th quarter, however, the Irish went back to a 3-man front and Texas marched down the field to score a late go-ahead touchdown.

The 4-man front had been working all second half, why go back to the look that Texas was having its way with early on?  A whole lot went wrong for Notre Dame on defense from blown assignments to missed tackles, but a lot went wrong in this one from a game-planning and strategy perspective as well.  This was not Brian Vangorder’s best moment as a defensive coordinator – and that is saying something given some of the defensive performances we’ve seen over the years.

4. What happened to Tyler Newsome?

Newsome had a great first season as a starter in 2015 for the Irish, but last night the junior punter was not the same punter we saw a year ago.  In 2015 Newsome averaged 44.5 yards a punt – a Notre Dame record (minimum 50 punts).  Last night he averaged just 38.3 yards a kick and shanked a 24 yarder at one of the worst possible moments.

With Notre Dame finally back in the lead 35-31, Newsome shanked a kick 24 yards giving Texas solid field position when it looked like the Irish could pin them deep.  Kicking from his own 44, Newsome’s boot could have backed Texas up against the end-zone.  Instead they started at their own 32.

Newsome’s last punt of the game wasn’t his best kick either.  In a tie game with just under two minutes remaining, Newsome hit one 38 yards giving Texas the ball at the 33 yard line.  With a suspect defense, Notre Dame will need Newsome back on his game in a hurry.

5. Notre Dame has to rely on freshmen in the secondary

Brian Kelly made personnel changes at halftime after the Texas offense kept getting behind the Irish defense.  Kelly sat junior Drue Tranquill in favor of freshman Devin Studstill.  When Avery Sebastian got knocked out of the game he inserted another freshman, Jalen Elliot.  Tranquill and Sebastian were over-matched in this game as neither are known for their speed and neither could keep up with the speed of the Texas offense.

Starting two true freshmen safeties can be a recipe for disaster, but it looks like Notre Dame might need to rely on a couple of frosh moving forward.  Where’s a schematic advantage when you really need one.

6. Notre Dame can still make a playoff run

It may sounds crazy or overly optimistic/irrational to still be talking playoffs, but even with the loss this weekend, Notre Dame can make a run at the playoffs if they win out.  Ohio State showed us two years and Oklahoma showed us last year that an early season “bad” loss can be overcome if you are playing great football at the end of the year.  Ohio State lost at home to a bad Virginia Tech team in 2014 and Oklahoma lost to the same Texas team that Notre Dame had beat 38-3 just a year ago. Both made the playoffs.

Of course, a lot outside of Notre Dame’s control will have to happen for them to still have any shot at the playoffs on top of a lot happening that they can control.  For Notre Dame to make a run, the Irish will obviously need to win out, but in addition, they’ll need Texas to win more games than they did a year ago so this won’t be deemed a “bad” loss and they’ll need a team like Miami, NC State, or Virginia Tech to be better than advertised to help build their resumé.

Yesterday’s loss gives Notre Dame zero margin for error, however, and even at 11-1, there’s a chance the Irish could be left out of the mix given the schedule Notre Dame faces this year. None of Notre Dame’s three marquee opponents – USC, Stanford, and Michigan State – looked overly strong this weekend

Parting shots

  • Yes, it was a targeting penalty.  We all know that by now.
  • Equanimeous St Brown looked great in his starting debut.  He needs some more work, but the future for St. Brown is about as bright as his helmet.
  • Disappointed in the play of the interior Notre Dame DL. No tackles for loss for any Irish DT/NT.
  • Asmar Bilal is going to be needed against spread offenses.  Love Greer Martini but he’s built for Navy, Army, Michigan State, and Stanford on this year’s schedule.  Need to see more of Bilal next week.
  • Stepherson didn’t look ready to play such a prominent role.  Need to find him a niche in this offense ala Golden Tate ’07 and have Boykin ready on the outside if Hunter misses next week.
  • The slogan in Austin is “Keep it Weid Austin” and it was indeed weird in Austin the last few days.
  • Heard not very great things about Lonestar beer from some locals before heading to Austin, but enjoyed a few of them this weekend.
  • No one said there would be this many shots after a 6-pack. Pass the water.

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  1. Rhonda, the ACC said it probably was targeting after BK sent them the video.

    That’s not the reason why they lost, but fair is fair.

  2. BVG is terrible , through and through. The defense hasn’t made a significant game winning stance since 2012. Rhonda Starr get a new pair of eyeglasses.

  3. Targeting penalty? Not quite. The helmet-to-helmet contact was incidental as the the defender was leading with his shoulder at a height of about 4 feet (off the ground). The receiver ducked his head when he landed (he jumped to catch the ball) and created the contact.

    No official is going to reward the offensive player for putting himself in a position to get drilled like that.

  4. Part of the reason Texas won IMO was because they had payback in mind. They came out ready to go from the outset and ND got pushed around.

  5. Lone Star beer ? Really ??? Surely someone at least tried to point you to a Shiner Bock didn’t they ? Not to mention all the local craft beers. Only drink LSD when it is a) free and b) ice cold ! All in all, hope you had a good time and had better Tex-Mex & BBQ than you had in brews.

  6. Same old same old – The D sucks. There should be no decision on the QB – yes Zaire did not get much of a shot because Kizer did a very good job – couldn’t ask much more of him

    No shot at the playoffs or top 10 if the D doesn’t get it together – enough time has passed for BVG to do the job

  7. Also, I wouldn’t panic yet about punting. Even the best of players have a bad game sometimes. Newsome played well enough last year I’m willing to give him a mulligan on this one. I believe he’ll be better come next week (though hopefully he won’t have to punt much going forward).

  8. I agree on Kizer. Both QB’s have some unique skill sets, and some of Zaire’s lack of play could just be some rust, but Kizer is likely going to be the starter going forward. Zaire will see the field, as he still has some unique skills that will certainly prove useful. He will have opportunities to impress the coaches again. But BK will make Kizer the starter going forward, I think he is just trying to avoid the old knee-jerk reaction and at least put out the perception that he is keeping all his options open.

    The defense though, what a disappointment. Those 2 quick scores by Texas at the beginning of the 3rd quarter were killers. Credit the offense for giving ND back the least after what could have easily turned into a blowout. I was starting to reconsider the defense when they finally woke up and forced a couple 3 and outs, but once Texas made some adjustments, they were back in it. BVG needs to turn things around now. Nevada should give them an opportunity to make more solid plays, but I just don’t trust the defense to do that. That’s a huge problem. I understood why ND retained BVG for this year. It’s rarely a good idea to scrap a coach after 2 seasons. I was hoping BVG would simplify his defense and work on discipline in assignments and penalties. What irked me more than anything is some costly penalties by the defense. That can’t happen. I understand mistakes occur, and there are times you have to take a penalty to break up a key play (think back to the USC in 2012 when they took interference penalties to stop a touchdown). But they were taking boneheaded penalties. If the defense doesn’t show improvement then BVG needs to go.

    Playoffs I think are unlikely. The way the offense played, I think 10 wins are possible with the schedule, though no guarantee. But 11 wins is probably pie in the sky. Texas looked much improved from last year, but only time will tell if they are truly that improved over last year. Very disappointed. The defense really cost us the game. When your offense scores 47 points, that should be a W (of course, Texas fans are conversely probably concerned somewhat that their defense gave up 47 points, but that is mitigated by the win).

  9. To me, the BVG quote about how he asked the team if they wanted to keep installing new stuff or was it enough gives me pause. Students aren’t usually the best judges of what they can and can’t learn. They tend to be motivated by a personal desire to excel, but lack the experience and perspective to define how to accomplish that. That statement makes me wonder whether he really has a vision for what he wants his team to be, all the more so because they have some issues with things like tackling. That suggests a teacher who doesn’t stress fundamentals enough. You don’t get to be a better golfer by adding more clubs to the bag, you get to be a better golfer by spending more time on the putting green and hitting five irons on the range.

  10. It’s possible that they can go 11-1, but doesn’t seem too likely. BVG still needs to answer the questions about his coaching, and I didn’t see anything much last night that did that. Some improvement in the red zone, but same getting burned with big plays.

  11. Do you really think ND can go 11-1 with what you saw on Sunday? Please. The defense is horrible. I was for Kizer starting from day one but Kelly still “needs to see film” to decide on his starting qb? Give me a break. Some horrible game day decisions by Kelly keeps this a continual 3 loss team.

  12. ND doesn’t have a 11-1 defense, it doesn’t. I see an offense that can score (go with Kizer as a the starter) and defense that will be scored upon, somewhat looks like a Big 12 team. This team is NOT a top 10 team unless a big miracle occurs and this defense becomes stingy and tenacious. I’m not feeling that love, that’s for sure.

  13. Folston has nothing on Josh Adams. BK needs to grow a pair and play the best player, regardless of age/class (multiple examples here). And we all knew Sebastian and Tranquil weren’t going to last long.

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