SOUTH BEND, Ind. — DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire were in more diplomatic moods on Wednesday, the first time time the two Notre Dame quarterbacks met with the media since showing outward frustration with coach Brian Kelly’s plan to play both of them Sunday against Texas.
How Kelly’s grand experiment will play out on Sunday remains to be seen, with the seventh-year Irish coach only saying this week he’ll switch his two playmaking quarterbacks based on the feel of the game.
Whatever feel or flow entails, though, probably won’t be figured out until sometime Sunday night in Texas.
“Coach Kelly knows all the answers for that,” Zaire said.
Kizer’s solution to receiving intermittent snaps as the feel of the game dictates has been to eliminate any semblance of rhythm from his game. His focus has been narrow on a snap-to-snap basis during practice, which he’ll carry over into Sunday night.
“I focus in on how I can eliminate rhythm from my game because I’m not going to be able to guarantee that for myself,” Kizer said. “When you’re a guy who can go out and you’re going to start and you’re going to play the whole game, you’re going to rely on rhythm to get yourself going. But in this situation, I’ve focused in the last two weeks of, how I can I eliminate rhythm from my game and focus on how to get a great player rep to rep.”
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Zaire did well in the closest example we have to how Notre Dame could run its offense against Texas — the 2014 Music City Bowl. Zaire, who switched in and out with Everett Golson in that game, completed 12/15 passes and rushed for 96 yards with two touchdowns in Notre Dame’s 31-28 win over No. 23 LSU.
But Golson was more of a passing quarterback, and Zaire at that stage of his career was viewed as a strong runner who could be efficient through the air when he worked off play action (it wasn’t until Zaire torched Texas in last year’s opener that his excellent passing ability was on display). Kizer and Zaire have similar enough skillsets to run the same offense, with maybe a different wrinkle here or there for each.
So how each are deployed will depend on feel, but also what the situation is — red zone, fourth down, etc. — and how Texas is deploying its defense.
“What we're trying to counter is the game within the game, and that is how Texas is trying to defend what we're doing offensively,” Kelly said. “So that's really the biggest issue that I have moving forward. We're going to run the quarterbacks how we see the defense is playing us.”
Both Kizer and Zaire have had two weeks to digest Kelly’s dual-quarterback edict. And now, the last remaining questions will be answered Sunday night.
“That’s always been the goal for us is to do what it takes to win the game and for me it’s whatever it takes to get that opportunity and get the most out of those guys around me,” Zaire said. “At the end of the day it’s all about who wins the game up on the scoreboard, and that’s what we look to do.”
“I just want win games,” Kizer said. “I obviously would love to be the guy to lead Notre Dame out there and play every snap, just like any competitor out there. If we can go out there and play five overtimes, I want every last snap of those overtimes. But this is a situation where you gotta trust in the man up top, and that’s the guy that has a corner office here in coach Kelly.”