SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said starting quarterback DeShone Kizer was not hurt and the decision to insert reserve quarterback Malik Zaire into the Irish’s 17-10 loss to Stanford on Saturday night was the head coach’s, as Kelly wanted his team to get momentum back after Kizer threw interceptions on the first two drives of the second half, which Notre Dame opened with a 10-0 lead.
“Those are coach-player conversations,” Kelly said. “I just felt like it was important to try to get some energy back. We lost some energy, and I thought going to Malik would do that, and then just, again, with DeShone’s experience, felt like giving him a shot at the end that would give us our best chance of winning.”
Zaire had two three-and-out drives sandwiched between a one-play drive from his own 5-yard line that began and ended with a high snap that went out of bounds for a safety to cut the Irish’s lead to 10-9. The crowd booed heavily following Zaire’s final drive of the game and later voiced its approval when Kizer was reinserted for the game’s final drive.
Kizer finished the game 14-of-26 passing for 152 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, the first of which was returned 50 yards for a touchdown. He added a team-best 11 carries and 83 yards and scored a rushing touchdown. Kizer re-entered the game at the 3:44 mark and led a 15-play, 61-yard drive that ended with his being stopped short and losing the ball on a fourth-and-10 run from the Stanford 14-yard line on the game’s final play.
Zaire finished the night 0-for-2 passing and had three rushing yards.
Kelly said during fall camp that both quarterbacks would play this season, but Kizer emerged as the lone starter after outperforming Zaire in the Irish’s season-opening loss at Texas. Kelly reiterated after Saturday’s loss that Kizer is the Irish’s starting quarterback.
“I don’t think there’s really a question about who the starting quarterback is: DeShone is the starting quarterback,” Kelly said. “Each game is treated as a game in itself. We’re trying to win the game. Malik is a really good quarterback. I was looking for a little bit of energy and kind of stem the tide and the flow of the game, but DeShone Kizer is the starting quarterback.”
Notre Dame fell to 2-5 on Saturday as it enters its bye week.