By Joel Norman, Original published on Sports Heaven
Sunday night, Notre Dame lost its third consecutive game dating back to last season.
After rallying back from a 31-14 deficit to force overtime, Notre Dame fell to Texas in the second overtime, 50-47.
Close losses to Texas, and Stanford, and a double-digit loss to Ohio State in between have been humbling, to say the least.
In two of those games, the starting quarterback was obvious: DeShone Kizer.
However, before Sunday’s game against Texas, head coach Brian Kelly had said that Kizer would share the starting role with Malik Zaire against the Longhorns.
Kizer came out onto the field for the opening drive and promptly threw a touchdown. When Zaire took the field, the Irish went three and out.
After that drive, Zaire only took the field two more times. He finished the game 2-5 with 23 passing yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Meanwhile, his counterpart threw went 15-24 with five touchdown passes and rushed for another touchdown.
If anything was clear after the loss, it was that Kizer is now Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, officially.
The circumstances that have forced Zaire into a backup role are unfortunate. A year ago, no one could have foreseen his career take this big of a hit.
When Texas and Notre Dame met last season in South Bend, Indiana, it was Zaire who was under center, calling plays. He went an impeccable 19-22 and threw three touchdowns. The Irish dominated the Longhorns, 38-3.
The next week, everything went wrong. Zaire broke his ankle in the third quarter against Virginia and would miss the rest of the season.
With Zaire out, Kizer stepped up and Notre Dame finished the season 10-3 overall.
It’s easy to forget how important Zaire was to Notre Dame in such a short span.
On November 1st, 2014, the Irish were 7-1 after a 49-39 win over Navy. With four regular season games remaining, Notre Dame had its eyes set on making the College Football Playoff.
Instead, disaster struck. The Irish lost all four games and were demoted to the lowly Music City Bowl. A matchup with No. 23 LSU awaited.
In the four losses, starting quarterback Everett Golson threw seven touchdowns but also threw seven interceptions. He lost his starting job in the bowl game. Zaire threw a touchdown and ran for another in Notre Dame’s 31-28 win.
Zaire was named the starter for 2015, so Golson transferred. Since hitting his peak against LSU, Zaire has seen his 15 minutes of fame fade fast.
It’s not Zaire’s fault that Kizer thrived last season, but it is Zaire’s fault that he lost his spot as the starting quarterback for the 2016 season. He was given a chance Sunday, but he tossed it away. Obviously, Zaire was going to be rusty after not playing for a year, but he didn’t do enough to inspire faith in him.
For now, Kizer is the starter. If he gets hurt or struggles, Notre Dame must hope that Zaire regains the form that made him so successful in his brief stint as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback.