Brian Kelly said it was a 'head coaching decision' to turn to Malik Zaire in the 3rd quarter of Saturday night's game against Stanford and not because of any injury to DeShone Kizer.
Zaire played three possessions and wasn't able to get the offense going in anyway. Kizer returned for the game's final drive and got the Irish inside the Stanford 20 but Notre Dame wasn't able to score and the Irish fell 17-10 to drop to 2-5 on the season.
Notre Dame was ahead 10-0 in the 3rd when Kizer threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. On the next drive, Kizer threw another interception and was yanked from the game by Kelly.
"I just was looking to maybe catch some lightning in a bottle," Kelly said after the game. "Malik is a really good quarterback. We really wanted to win, and I wanted to win for our guys, and I thought maybe that change up would get us the energy back that we had lost when Stanford put some points on the board. That was the intent in that situation."
Kelly didn't catch lightning in a bottle and Notre Dame's offense never bounced back. It's the 2nd week in a row that Kelly made a move that puzzled his fan base. Last week against NC State, Kelly continued to throw the ball in hurricane like conditions rather than run the ball more.
Kelly said Kizer remains his starting quarterback.
Give Kelly credit for this--he didn't throw any of his players under the bus in his postgame news conference this week, including Zaire. After the game Saturday, I asked Kelly if he regretted the decision to go to Zaire.
"No, absolutely not," Kelly said. "I think I made it pretty clear Angelo that when you're in the throes of the game, you're trying to get the feel for the temperature of the game, and it just felt like we needed some momentum. Malik is a really good quarterback, and I just felt like at that time he would provide that for us. But in no way, shape or form would I regret ever going to Malik Zaire."
But the decision to pull his starting quarterback backfired on Kelly. Former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen was tweeting as the game went.
"If I was Kizer I'd want to go in the draft early," Clausen tweeted. "Why would I come back with a HC that has no trust in you? Throw 2 ints and get yanked?"
Clausen went on to say he likes Kelly as a coach but that a coach has to trust his starting quarterback to get through tough times.
Now Notre Dame heads into the bye in a spot no one could have imagined.
"It's not where you want to be obviously," Irish cornerback Cole Luke said. "I'm not really sure what to say. A lot of the guys in there obviously morale is a little low but everyone knows what we have to do in order to turn things around, and we need to win out."
"Nobody is satisfied with what is going on right now obviously," adds defensive lineman Jarron Jones. "We are just playing for each other. Going through this tough time shows us how much we love each other and care about each other."
And it was yet another game where the Irish were unable to pull out a win in a close game. All five Notre Dame losses have been by 8 points or fewer this season.
"It's always disappointing having that tough loss where you had a chance to win it - and you didn't," Irish captain and wide receiver Torii Hunter says. "We've been in that situation every loss so far this year. it's disappointing."
Kelly says he told his team they are in a 'no apology zone' because the team is all in this together.
"We're 2-5, and we're going to get reminded of it by everybody in the country about a million times," Kelly said. "We're 2-5, I'm 2-5, everybody is 2-5, so no one needs to apologize. What we need to do is coach better and execute better, and that will cure a lot of things."
Notre Dame hosts Miami on October 29th.