Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Offense Stalls vs. Stanford

Photo: Zach Bolinger // Icon Sportswire
Photo: Zach Bolinger // Icon Sportswire

Even though perfect weather conditions existed for thia Notre Dame Stanford battle, the Irish offensive unit still struggled for the most of the night. That lack of consistency ended in disaster as the early promise of a solid first half ended with a second consecutive loss and a 2-5 record. Given the absence of injured Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey, the loss only adds to the frustration of not being able to exploit that omission from their lineup.

Fast Flameout

The final drive saw the Irish move the ball 50 yards in seven plays to get down to the Cardinal 25. That success quickly stagnated, with the Notre Dame offense needing four plays to gain 10 yards. Getting down to the eight-yard line put them in position for the win until DeShone Kizer made the mistake of not throwing the ball away. That resulted in a sack, causing a quick spike and a desperate fourth down run that ended nowhere near the end zone.

Offensive Blackout

Prior to the ill-fated final drive of this Notre Dame Stanford 2016 clash, the Irish offense had been virtually non-existent since a second quarter field goal. While 103 yards on 30 plays during that dry spell might seem like relatively acceptable production, the fact that a single play accounted for 49 yards dispels that notion. Perhaps even more absurd is the fact that the net yardage for the drive that included the 49-yard gain amounted to 39 yards.

Going in the Wrong Direction

Troubles on offense that went beyond production problems effectively cost the Irish the game. Starting off the second half with a 10-0 advantage, Kizer’s errant pass turned into a pick-six for the Cardinal and was the start of 17 unanswered points the rest of the way. Two more points for Stanford were also gift-wrapped by a snap from the five-yard line that turned into a safety. That led to Stanford getting the ball back and driving 67 yards to score the winning touchdown. All told, giving the Cardinal 55 yards AND possession of the ball in this Notre Dame Stanford 2016 contest were avoidable mistakes.

A Sour Note with Musical Quarterbacks

After Stanford’s only offensive touchdown and two-point conversion in the final quarter, Brian Kelly switched quarterbacks by using Malik Zaire. His main forte is running, a strategy that gained four yards. The choice seemed especially suspect on first down when Zaire attempted to pass and was sacked for a five-yard loss. The subsequent punt allowed the Cardinal to eat up nearly five minutes in this Notre Dame Stanford scuffle.

Next Up

Notre Dame has two weeks to prepare for a home matchup against the Miami Hurricanes, with bowl eligibility slowly slipping away. The meeting will be the first matchup in South Bend since 1990, though home cooking hasn’t tasted too good for the Irish this season with just one win in four tries.

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  1. Ray, I totally, totally agree with you…and someelse’s comment about how much prep Zaire is getting in practice. I also feel like Kelly puts MZ in only after Kiser has a letdown (ie INT-or two) but then does not give him the play calls or protection he needs to succeed. The game plan against Zaire is to rush and confuse him…it’s working. That part is easy to see. What I don’t see is why Kelly doesn’t see it. Look, Kelly is over his head, which from the enormity of it, is really hard to do. I’m not a big fan of Kiser either. OK, so he’s a bit smarter than Zaire, but between the two, I think MZ has the better arm and the better evasiveness. Kiser won the job because he has better option read instincts. But that’s something that could be taught. What i really don’t like is his petulant attitude when Zaire is in replacing him. He’s not that good that he thinks it’s a mistake to take him out. You see it in his face…he does not want Zaire to succeed…he keeps his helmet on like…’Kelly will put me in any second now’. At this point what’s the difference. Prediction…upcoming losses to Miami, Navy (poss Army), Va Tech and USC…Let’s see, did i leave anyone out. Oh yeah, Kelly is OUT with Soreprick right behind. Can you hear it (it’s faint…jongruden, jongruden…oh jongruden…)

  2. Mentality of ND Admininstration – Aww shucks, another loss. Oh well, better luck next year. We’ll get ’em next time. At least it’s just a silly football game. Sure, put a gun to my head and I’ll choose winning over losing, but it’s really not important. I don’t care about championships. The only ship that’s worth a damn is friendship.

  3. I think Zaire and Kizer are a little above average and that is about it. They are not consistently accurate . I also, agree that it is much harder for both of them without a good running game and good pass protection. Also, I don’t feel that Kelly, Denbrock and Sanford are putting them in good situations with their scheme and play calling.

  4. Kelly doesn’t seem to care. He will entertain an NFL position if offered. He’s in a world of hurt. Everyone said year 3. Then everyone accepted that in year 4 or 5 he could work his magic since everyone said the program was in bad shape.

    Consider that Jim Harbaugh took over a horrible Stanford program. By his 3rd year they were contenders. Now he’s at Michigan, contenders in year 2. Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriquez did about the same thing to Michigan. That Weis and willing ham did to Notre Dame. Willing ham did it to Stanford and they stayed down until Harbaugh showed up. Peterson is doing it with Washington.

    So no more crap folks. If Kelly were the man it would have already happened.

    1. I think you are spot on because if you have the continued issues this ND team has after the coach has been here SEVEN years, I don’t see the special “It” happening real soon.

  5. I wouldn’t call Kizer’s job phenomenal. He had three interceptions including one that ended ND’s chance to tie the game.

  6. I hope if Kelly is back next year and I wish he wasn’t I would like to see the following changes. 1) booker fired and a proven big time special teams coach brought in. 2) find the best d coordinator out there bring him in and let him pick his own assistants 3) limit Denbrock to full time receivers coach tight ends included. 4) need to replace longo and bring in a new strengh and conditioning program. 5) make Sanford full time offensive coordinator and change the offense to what Michigan runs, pro style i formation while still incoroporating the spred priniples. If non of these things work fire Kelly and make a run at Danatonio

  7. Its embarrassing, We have really stinking underwear, time to break out those “KellyGreen Jerseys”

  8. You know, they finally start doing some things right on defense and now the offense falls apart. Can we, for just one game, have the offense AND defense play a good game. Defense wasn’t perfect, but they did what they needed to do to win the game. This one was definitely on the offense.

    BK’s handling of the quarterbacks almost qualifies as malpractice. He has 2 excellent QB’s in Kizer in Zaire, and if used the right way they can both make stellar plays. But BK is doing everything wrong. That has been an issue in many years under BK. Only 2012 did he seem to have a good handle, sticking with EG for the most part but strategically using Rees when he was needed (or when EG was injured). And the coaches that year did a good job with the playcalling, making sure to call plays that they knew EG could handle. They never left him hang out to dry like they are this year. Other than that it seems to be a QB wasteland.

    It almost seems BK is answering fan calls when he does these things, but at all the wrong times. Last week at NC State, when they should have run more, may have been a good time to call on Zaire. But they passed, almost in answer to our calls to run more passing plays (though that was not the time to do that). This week he turns to Zaire and then doesn’t put him in a position to make plays. The only thing I agreed with was putting Zaire back in after the botched snap that resulted in a safety. That was on the center, not Zaire, and I agree with putting him back in and giving him another chance because otherwise it would have seemed BK was punishing Zaire for something that wasn’t his fault. But it’s sad because BK is wasting 2 good QB’s.

    I honestly don’t see them going bowling this year. 2 more losses and they’d be out (though 5-7 teams could potentially get an invite, in that scenario I’m not sure I’d take a bowl).

    1. Damian & Pete
      Some good points- but for sure BK does not “answer fan calls” re: what the fans on this blog suggest.
      If he did, that would indeed be malpractice.

      NDs D’ has given up 11 points in two games, and lost both. Their special teams have scored 7 points and given up 6 points; their offense has scored 13 points, and given up 9 points.
      The OL added multiple penalties this week to their inability to consistently run block or pass block the last two weeks- this week versus a team that hasn’t held their two previous opponents to under 40 points. Little separation between NDs receivers and the other teams’ DBs the last two games. Completed passes to TEs or RBs remain rare. Is Kizer holding onto the ball too long, or does the OL pass protection break down too quickly? If your predictable play calling is working, like it had for most of the first five games, then have at it. If it isn’t working, then it’s incumbent on the staff to try something else. With two weeks to prepare, maybe something less predictable is coming! NDs DL seldom makes a key tackle, (Stanford’s Thomas made a ton of them), and NDs third down D’ gave up more conversions than stops, while NDs O’ fell far short on third down conversions. As a team, whatever it takes to win, especially if the game is close, doesn’t happen, and it seems the team falls short whenever a key stop or necessary offensive conversion is there for the taking. When one unit succeeds, the other two fail. Losing becomes a habit.

      When ND drove to inside the ten, and settled for a 29 yd. FG to make it 10-0, I got a bad feeling. Then when they gave up a 50 yd. INT for a TD, followed quickly by another INT, then a safety, it seemed to signal a close game, which, with this team, leads to a loss.
      Like last year, Stanford refused to lose; ND refused to win. It’s probably more attitude than talent.

      1. I doubt BK reads our posts, I mean what head coach would have time to read a blog anyway. It just seemed like one weeks people were saying he should do something, then a week or two later he does, but at the wrong times.

        But no doubt we as fans don’t always agree. I may thing they should pass more, another run more. It’s ultimately up to BK to make the right calls, which he is not right now.

        I was on the BK bandwagon, though with concerns, until the Duke game. That was the last straw. I just wonder why things are deteriorating so bad so quickly. Against Clemson and Stanford last year, they had a game to the end, and both were good teams last year. While fans thought last year was a bad year, most CFB pundits thought ND overachieved last year considering we were playing with what was in the spring the 3rd string QB. After Zaire went down most experts thought ND would be lucky to win 9 games. They won 10. It could have been 12 if there were no BVG. How did they go from that to the abomination that the team is this year? Yes they lost some players, but it wasn’t like 2007 when they were starting an almost totally new team. Enough key players came back that they should not be 2-5.

      2. Notre Dame’s “D” has given up 9 points in two games (1.1 points per quarter). When the other team goes for two, that is “special teams” job to stop it, not the “D’s”. And the special teams lined up in a “gap 11” whatever the hell that is, with ZERO contain on the left and ZERO contain on the right and ZERO safeties. It was right in front of my seats, so do not even try and tell me it was some other way.

        Bruce Curme
        La Crosse, Indiana

      3. Damien,
        Sorry for the late response! I had to think about this for awhile. There is only one person on the planet you can be absolutely sure reads our posts – SNOWDEN. “SNOWDEN” reads everything. Snowden is like Three Days of the Condor on steroids.

        But I doubt Kelly has the time (at least I hope he doesn’t have the time!).

        Bruce GC 77′ 82′

  9. The offensive line has been a problem all year. If Harry is not fired now, he should be fired at the end of the year. No excuse for us losing this game.

  10. As much as I like Zaire, I don’t understand why BK put him in. He looked rusty to me and I wonder how many reps he’s getting in practice. Not to mention the confidence thing it does to Kizer getting yanked for a few mistakes. Just looking at Zaire’s body language, I think he’s already left this team as have some of the other players seem to

    1. His field position starts were horrible. He had to go in after Kizer threw two stupid interceptions, one into coverage the other throw a soft pop up throw in the middle of the field. I have a feeling Zaire with a starting field position at the 25 at the end of the game could have done something. Also he lost a great scrambling play because of a holding penalty that might have given us a little momentum bck.

  11. Folston looked great and then he sits. Should have kept that going. Was good to see the defense playing better. They are improving each week. Nice to see the D-Line get some push and get into the backfield at times. There is a problem with the play calling/execution on offense and still too many penalties. I wouldn’t blame Kizer if he goes pro, but it will only get tougher at the next level. He’s got to be frustrated with the situation at this point. This season was lost during fall camp. Not sure what they worked on, but it was clearly not the fundamentals in offense, defense and special teams.

  12. No shot at Wimbush seeing the field with Kizer AND Zaire healthy and on the sidelines. Kelly would never in a million years. Are you kidding me?

  13. The defense was obviously sufficient, but it’s just the same old story with the offense….can’t get the job done when the game is on the line.

    Folston looked good, but I guess Zaire was getting bored.

  14. Brian Kelly just inked a six year deal, he isn’t going to be fired. I think the offensive problems are because Kelly is spending all of his time with the defense.

    Kelly’s biggest mistake was hiring BVG. That has snowballed into this season. He needs to evaluate his decision to hire BVG and when he shops another D-coordinaor get it right.

    Finally, I’m not saying the sky is falling and ND is horrible. They have not gotten blown out by anyone. Every game has gone down to the wire and unfortunately the ball hasn’t bounced their way. Look at it this way, if they were able to hold Texas and Duke they would have rolled into NC State with one loss. They have not put a full 60 minute effort on both sides of the ball this year. I see the problem as being players leaving early for the NFL and no leadership on the team. ND needs to come up with a plan to keep the 2 deep with experienced players. This year is a bust, but BK get set the seeds for a really good year next year and years you come.

    I know some people are going to crush me for this post, but he’s not going anywhere and I think he can fix it. We will see because another year like this and he’s gone

    1. thank you mr. swarbrick. but kelly is overrated, arrogant and never should have been hired at ND. fire him at the end of the year!

    2. Jack,
      If the “O” goes to hell in a handbasket the minute Coach Kelly moves over to coach the “D”, then there must be a major problem with the offensive assistant coaches. Let’s hope that is not the case.

      Brian Kelly can’t be everybody’s personal psychiatrist, holding one group’s hands after another, until everyone remembers to play well on the same Saturday.

      Coach Kelly has two things going for him – the cupboard is fairly well stocked, and he is the guy who made us relevant again. He also knows football.

      But he also has problems to address; problems that seem to be recurring.

      Miami is a conference game. We need a win. We need all the oars in the water at the same time.

      Bruce GC 77′ 82′

  15. What a mess – one positive if possible is that the defense didn’t get torched – Something has really gone sour about the offense. I have been a Kelly supporter in the past but this year a mess – simply out coached EVERY game. He needs to really look at himself – and again the play of the OL terrible – a change there is needed – forget about a bowl game – just think about winning another game – going winless the rest of the year won’t surprise me. Some real issues with the coaching

  16. I watched last nights game off and on. I watched Wisconsin and Ohio State. Those 2 teams are so much better coached than Notre Dame it isn’t funny. I don’t see the situation getting better at Notre Dame with Kelly. I think Notre Dame has very good talent but is very poorly coached. I put Kelly on the level of Brady Hoke. Look at how Michigan declined under Hoak. Harbaugh comes in there goes to a pro style offense and hires great assistant coaches and won 10 games last year and has them 4th in the country this year. Notre Dame has to hit a homerun hire and soon or there is no future hope imho. Also what does everyone think about after the break starting Winbush. Kizer most likely is going to turn pro after this year and you need to get Winbush some valuable experience. He may just provide a spark.

    1. It wild be foolish to burn a year of bw eligibility for the last 4 games of a list season. He already had to burn a year last year to play in a couple games because of Zaire s misfortune

    2. Kizer is Not the problem. We should all hope he comes back next season. Kizer did a phenomenal job marching the team downfield and getting in position to tie the game. And thats after dipshit Kelly yanks him in favor of Zaire and makes him watch 3 wasted series of offense. Give Stanford credit for playing tough defense in the redzone with the game on the line.

      1. I wouldn’t call Kizer’s job phenomenal. He had three interceptions including one that ended ND’s chance to tie the game. sorry bout the misplaced post just noticed the reply button.

      2. It looks easy from the couch huh Mike. Kelly has used Zaire if im not mistaken in 2 or 3 games when Kizer was struggling and they split time in the opener against Texas. Zaire has looked horrible every single time. Kizer has looked great at times and mistake prone at others sort of like Golson and Rees. Maybe Kellys system of passing 70% is a little risky and susceptible to turnovers.

      3. 3 series with terrible field position and a center who snapped the ball over his head. Also he lost a great scramble run on his first series that may have given us momentum back because of a holding penalty. Kizer threw two pitiful interceptions in a row. He has not driven us to a game tying or winning drive in 5 attempts this year.

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