This season is the special kind of a gut punch to the point where I wasn’t really interested in watching Notre Dame’s final offensive possession to try and tie the game against Stanford. The odds of THIS team driving down the field, calmly putting together a touchdown and PAT, and then winning in overtime was roughly 2.678%. In other words, it was only a matter of finding out how Notre Dame would lose.
And lose they did! Now, the 5th loss in 7 games this year and the 7th loss in the last 9 games.
Defense Did Its Job
So much so that during halftime the narratives were being crafted that this Stanford offense, without the injured Christian McCaffrey, might be the answer to the question of which Power 5 offense is bad enough to make the Irish defense look competent.
Stanford doinked a field goal in the first half but otherwise looked non-threatening, harmless, and even hapless at times on its way to a shutout at the break.
The worst that can be said is that Stanford was pretty good on 3rd down (7 for 12) and backup running back Bryce Love gained some momentum in the second half ending the game with a solid 129 yards on 23 carries. Still, the Cardinal scored one touchdown all game long and still won.
The defense had 3 sacks and 3 turnovers! We still lost!!
Rarely Both Sides in Concert
In the history books the Brian Kelly era will largely be known as one where both sides of the ball (and special teams) rarely worked together to create a great team. So it went on Saturday night where Notre Dame was getting quality play from its defense and then allowed the offense to fall flat on its face in the second half.
Against a decent-but-far-from-great Stanford defense the Irish put up 4.8 yards per play which was the worst non-hurricane total going back to a sleepy effort against Wake Forest last year. They were also shutout in the second half.
I really, really, really hate to rely on common tropes but the offense simply couldn’t find a killer instinct. Leading 10-0 at halftime (and getting the ball!) Kizer threw a bad interception and things were never the same on offense for the rest of the game.
The run game had some good moments but things fizzled away in the second half, plus the offensive line struggled mightily containing Stanford’s pass rush and not false starting. Also, a week after ending the game with a poorly timed snap, center Sam Mustipher air mailed a ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Kizer vs. Zaire, Why?
Truth be told, DeShone Kizer has put together some pretty average football in recent weeks. Especially as a passer he’s had bouts of inaccuracy, poor pocket presence, and ill timed interceptions. You still have to roll with him through the bad stuff, though.
Brian Kelly said he does not regret going to Malik Zaire. Thought Zaire could offer momentum as a “catalyst”
— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) October 16, 2016
Kizer threw 2 straight INT’s to open the second half and then took a seat for all but the final series. There was some belief that he was banged up but that doesn’t seem to be the case. When he left the Irish led 10-7. When he came back the Irish trailed 17-10 for the game’s final score.
Malik Zaire, utterly ineffective and a broken shell of his former self, showed for the third or fourth time this season that he’s incapable of doing anything on the field besides stuttering in the pocket and trying to scramble for yardage. In his 3 series, Notre Dame gained -9 yards while gifting Stanford the aforementioned safety.
Of course, this game was entirely winnable. You could say even this miserable Notre Dame team should have at least put together enough of a passing game to win a close one. Instead, everything fell apart in the second half (aside from the final third down stop by the defense) and we’re left wondering how Brian Kelly could continue to come up with new and different ways to lose football games.