Campus Check In: DeShone Kizer gets the QB job to himself Notre Dame

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.

SOUTH BEND – Anyone who watched an entertaining four hours on football on Sunday evening in Austin would have drawn at least one pretty fast conclusion about the leader of the Irish offense.

Still Brian Kelly wasn’t as quick as Notre Dame fans to make a decision about his signal caller.

“We plan on having two really good quarterbacks the rest of the year,” said the Irish head coach of DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, who split reps in the opener against Texas. “I haven’t sat down and talked with to either one of them, so before we do that we don’t have any plans to make any decisions.”

Eventually Kelly came to the same conclusion that most everyone that watched Notre Dame’s 50-47 loss Longhorns did on Wednesday. Following a six-touchdown performance, the job for the moment is Kizer’s alone.

“As of right now I’m expected to be the only guy. The conversation (with Kelly) was just more to let me know I’d be the guy,” said Kizer on Wednesday when he revealed that Kelly told him that he is the starter for the Irish’s home opener against Nevada on Saturday. “We’ll see how the game goes.”

If it goes as well as it did on Sunday then Kizer won’t have much to worry about.

In arguably his best performance with the Irish, the quarterback hit 15-of-24 passes for 215 yards and five touchdowns while also running in a score from 29 yards out. Kizer easily bested Zaire’s 2-of-5 for 23 yard performance through the air, making the decision relatively easy for Kelly before the game against the Wolfpack.

A starter for most of the 2015 season after Zaire’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 2, Kizer is pleased to have the position to himself but is taking nothing for granted.

“It means a lot. In the last eight months I’ve learned quite a bit about myself as a quarterback, as a leader, as a teammate. From that I’ve definitely developed into someone I wanted to be this season,” said Kizer. “Malik really challenged me and he will continue to challenge me and I’m really grateful for the situation.

“It really helped me develop into a guy who is willing to go out and compete, play-by-play. Really taught me how a great quarterback needs to be.”

NORTHWESTERN: Role Reversal after Upset

EVANSTON – His eleventh season opener was a polar opposite of his tenth at Northwestern.

In 2015 Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern team knocked off then No. 21 Stanford at Ryan Field 16-6 – a victory that propelled the Wildcats to a ten-win regular season.

A year later, things are a bit different. This time the Wildcats were bitten by the upset bug as Western Michigan escaped Evanston with a 22-21 opening weekend win.

So how does Fitzgerald deal with the much more negative of this season? Look at the opponent they upset last year.

“I would say we beat them a lot more than Western Michigan beat us,” said the Wildcats head coach on Stanford in 2015. “Reminded the guys what they decided to do collectively as a program is learn from it and get better.”

It is a good strategy by Fitzgerald considering what the Cardinal did after that loss to Northwestern last season. They would go onto win all but one of their games for the rest of the season and won the Pac 12 Championship Game over USC. David Shaw’s team capped the strong season with a sound 45-16 victory over #5 Iowa in the Rose Bowl and would finish the season ranked third in the AP Poll.

As his Wildcats enter their second game of the season Saturday against Illinois State at Ryan Field, Fitzgerald is using the Cardinal team his Wildcats beat a year ago to keep his squad from feeling defeated.

“One game doesn’t make a season, unless you repeat the negativity and that becomes your identity,” said Fitzgerald. “You can’t allow that to happen.”

ILLINOIS: This Game Won’t Be Like Training Camp

CHAMPAIGN – It was a sugar-coated debut in a number of ways for Lovie Smith.

A decent crowd filled Memorial Stadium on a brisk afternoon to watch his Illinois debut. The Illini scored early and often then forced a few turnovers as they dominated Murray State 52-3 to open up the 2016 season.

For at least one day, all of the positive vibes generated by Smith’s hiring came to fruition on the field. While the coach enjoyed the start he’s not exactly looking at the win through rose-colored glasses.

“It’s good to be 1-0, but besides that, that last game felt like training camp; something that’s in our past that will hopefully make us better going forward, ” said Smith of the win over the Racers.

He’s right about that. The competition is about to go way up for his second game with the Illini.

North Carolina comes into Champaign with a strong team that finished 11-3 a season ago. Even with an opening week loss to #18 Georgia in Atlanta last Saturday, the Tar Heels are easily the best non-conference team the Illini will face this year and the first major test of the Smith era.

“They’re a storied program. There’s a type of football that you expect from them, a lot of good athletes, well coached,” said Smith of North Carolina. “Everything that you look for in having a successful program, is what we see in [North Carolina.] They played a good game this past week and had a good Georgia team down 10 points in the third quarter, so we know who we’re seeing this weekend.”

Especially in the backfield as North Carolina uses a 1-2 punch of Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan. The former comes off a 1,463 yard season from a year ago while the latter had 80 yards in the opener against the Bulldogs.

“Both are a little bit different. Both can really go the distance right away,” said Smith of Hood and Logan. “It doesn’t really matter which one is out there, both are great players and can change the outcome of the game. Both had a big impact throughout the [Georgia] game.”

NORTHERN ILLINOIS:  Another Week, Another Road Game

DEKALB – Rod Carey doesn’t have the luxury the other three local FBS schools have in their first two weeks – playing a game at home.

Once again Northern Illinois has a travel date in their second game of the season as they head south to face South Florida at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Last week was not only a long trip for the Huskies but a late one. They waited through a 110-minute weather delay in Wyoming and then proceeded to play three overtimes and lose to the Cowboys. The 40-34 defeat on a Josh Allen touchdown run came at 3:34 AM central time.

The Bulls had a much easier time their first week as they beat Towson at home 56-20.