DeShone Kizer enrolled at the University of Notre Dame as a freshman and the third-string quarterback. Now, after starter Everett Golson transferred to Florida State, and backup Malik Zaire went down with an ankle injury in Week 2, Kizer is suddenly a true freshman starter, having started six games for the Fighting Irish.
Now, as Notre Dame sits with a 7-1 record, ranked ninth in the country, Irish fans have to be wondering, "Where would Notre Dame be without Kizer?"
Kizer, after taking over for Zaire in Week 2, after Zaire went down with an ankle injury, has guided the Irish to a 5-1 record in his starts, not to mention the last minute miracle he delivered in Week 2 at Virginia when he found a streaking Will Fuller for a 40-yard touchdown pass with 13 second remaining on the clock, bringing the Irish back from a 27-26 deficit to a 34-27 lead.
After the Virginia game, Kizer promptly guided the Irish to a 30-22 victory over then ranked Georgia Tech, beginning the downwards spiral of the Yellow Jackets. Following that, Kizer helped the Notre Dame offense stick 62 points on the University of Massachusetts' defense, creaming the Minutemen 62-27. Kizer tossed two touchdowns and 207 yards in the game.
By then, the Irish had risen to the sixth-ranked team in the nation, entering a showdown against then 12th-ranked Clemson. Playing in the rain, at Clemson's raucous home stadium, Kizer and the Irish suffered their lone setback when, despite Kizer's spectacular fourth quarter play, Notre Dame's spectacular rally fell one two-point conversion short as the Tigers took down the previously undefeated Irish 24-22. Despite tossing one interception, Kizer threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns. The major reason for the loss was Notre Dame's inability to hold onto the football; several fumbles cost them in the game.
How did Kizer respond to his first loss?
He promptly put 41 points on the board against a solid Navy squad in a 41-24 victory, and then guided Notre Dame's comeback victory over USC a week later, 41-31.
Then, last Saturday, on Halloween night, Kizer put forth possibly his most gritty performance yet against the Temple Owls. He was far from perfect in the game, tossing two red zone interceptions during the game. There was no questions that Notre Dame left points on the board - they scored one touchdown in their first four red zone trips but Kizer delivered when it mattered most.
Notre Dame led most of the game, and was leading 17-10 in the fourth quarter. However, after a long drive by the Owls that resulted in a game-tying touchdown, and another field goal after Kizer couldn't respond, the Irish trailed 20-17.
With 4:45 remaining on the clock, Kizer calmly guided the Irish downfield, eventually tossing a spectacular touchdown pass to Will Fuller with 2:09 remaining to take a 24-20 lead. Notre Dame’s defense made a stand and the Irish held onto win against the 22nd-ranked Owls.
There’s no denying that Kizer still has room to grow as a quarterback - he has thrown six interceptions - but he has certainly been spectacular after being shoved into the starting job in Week 2.
Where are Zaire and Golson meanwhile?
Golson, after losing his first game of the season with the Seminoles to the faltering Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, did not start the last game with a concussion. He has not been as turnover-happy as he was in Notre Dame but Kizer’s overall quarterback rating is almost two points higher than Golson’s rating.
Zaire is out with a broken ankle. This article is not meant to say that Zaire would have been incapable of doing what Kizer has done but Kizer has done two things: He has been much better than Golson was at Notre Dame, and he has stayed healthy.
And, somehow, he has found a way to win games.