In its first game since being ranked No. 5 in the nation in the new College Football Playoff poll, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers 42-30 on Saturday. What’s even more impressive than the win or the team’s record is the continued dominating play of sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer.
After assuming the starting role when Malik Zaire suffered a gruesome fractured ankle against Virginia in the second game of the season, Kizer has been a leader both on and off the field for the Irish this season.
Kizer wasn’t even initially recruited by Notre Dame — he had to proactively pursue them. He had offers from SEC schools like Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and LSU, but deep down he always wanted to be a Notre Dame quarterback. After sending a highlight reel to Chuck Martin (the Notre Dame offensive coordinator at the time) he convinced Kelly to take a chance on Kizer.
Let’s just say Kelly isn’t disappointed about his decision.
Along with tying some impressive Notre Dame records, the Toledo, Ohio native has led the Irish to an 8-1 record, despite the team being bitten by the injury bug — hard.
DeShone Kizer joins Brady Quinn and Everett Golson as only ND QBs to score 6 Total TDs in a game in last 10 seasons. pic.twitter.com/O2MsIOufaV
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 7, 2015
Junior receiver Will Fuller is also having a phenomenal year in South Bend. He is now second on the school’s career receiving touchdown list with 28, recently passing current Detroit Lion Golden Tate and MLB pitcher Jeff Samardzija. He is only nine behind current Arizona Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd for the number one spot.
It’s remarkable production in just over two years of work, but if you ask Fuller, he is just simply doing his job.
“It’s just another day at the office,” Fuller said, via CSN Chicago after scoring three touchdowns against Pitt, becoming just the third player in school history to do so in a single game.
Back to Kizer, who has been making use of Fuller on a regular basis.
His 65.1 completion percentage this season is seven points better then Everett Golson’s 2012 percentage, when Golson led the Irish to the National Championship Game. Additionally, Kizer proved that he can handle the limelight and scrutiny that comes with being the Notre Dame QB, which includes being bombarded by reporters.
— Leigh Torbin (@LTorbin) November 7, 2015
With the win at Pitt, Notre Dame now controls its own destiny. The Fighting Irish have two games against unranked Wake Forest and Boston College, and they finish the season on the road against No. 11 Stanford. The Irish should have no problem against Wake and BC, but the real test will come on November 28 at Stanford Stadium.
As for Kizer, he trusts that his coaching staff and team execution will lead the Irish to continued success from week to week.
“We’re going to come out with W’s each week if we continue to trust in what the coaches are doing for us,” Kizer said, via CSN Chicago. “They get paid lots of money to gameplan for these teams. As long as we continue to execute what they tell us to do, we’ll be fine.”
As long as this impressive sophomore continues to come through in the clutch for Notre Dame, the Irish are going to be one of the four teams playing for the national championship.