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Five Thoughts on Notre Dame After Week One

DeShone Kizer

DeShone Kizer

The good news following Notre Dame’s 50-47 double overtime loss to Texas is that it was just week one. The Fighting Irish have 11 more games and if they were going to lose, early is better than late. But that is about where the positivity ends. Notre Dame came in as a team with College Football Playoff hopes and though those are not completely gone, the chances are substantially dimmer after the loss.

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While some of Notre Dame’s preseason concerns showed up, there were also expected strengths that let the Irish down at times. And in a lot of ways, this game looked similar to a few other recent Notre Dame contests.

Here are five thoughts on Notre Dame following the loss at Texas.

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DeShone Kizer is the Quarterback

Brian Kelly said on ESPN after the game that no decision has been made on the quarterback position. But come on. Kizer was much better than Malik Zaire on Sunday night and it could be argued that if he had played more, Notre Dame would have scored enough to beat Texas. Zaire’s three possessions resulted in no points; Kizer produced six touchdowns on his own. Case closed.

Stopping a Fast-Paced Offense

Here we go again. On Oct. 11, 2014 Notre Dame went to 6-0 by beating North Carolina 50-43. But the Heels exposed a flaw in defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder’s system. They played at a fast pace and Notre Dame couldn’t keep up. Fast-forward almost two years and defending an up-tempo offense is still a problem. Texas came out breakneck speed and Notre Dame looked confused much of the time. On several occasions, Irish players were not in position when Texas snapped the ball and the result was positive Longhorn yardage. So the question needs to be asked — is this something Notre Dame can fix?

While There are Questions About the Defensive Scheme...

There is a talent issue as well. Notre Dame started a free safety that is really a strong safety and for various reasons was not a starter during his four years at California. The strong safety is really a hybrid linebacker and he is coming off two ACL tears. The cornerbacks seem far from elite. There is no pure pass rusher. Tackling is a big problem. Van Gorder may not be the best fit, but the talent and depth on his side of the ball is suspect as well.

Stopping the Run

With Jarron Jones, Daniel Cage and Jerry Tillery in the middle of the defensive line, with Isaac Rochell at one end, with an emerging Nyles Morgan at middle linebacker, and with two bigger safeties, Notre Dame should have a strong rush defense. But Texas ran the ball very effectively. They didn’t get big chunk plays — their longest rush was for 19 yards – but the Longhorns’ ball carriers constantly beat up the Notre Dame defense with four- and five-yard gains. Tempo was a factor, but so was the physicality of the Texas running attack. With teams like Michigan State and Stanford coming up, Notre Dame will struggle mightily if it can’t stop the run.

Lack of Finish

This was another game during the Kelly era where Notre Dame was in position to win a game on the road against a good team and could not get it done. It happened twice last year, at Clemson and at Stanford. In 2014, it was Florida State. Going back further there was the debacle at Michigan in 2011 and the disappointment of the Michigan State fake field goal in ‘10. Notre Dame had several chances to put Texas away late in the game and once again the Irish came up short.

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.