Sep 12, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws the game-winning touchdown pass over Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Micah Kiser (53) with twelve seconds left in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. The Fighting Irish won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The grade should be closer to a B-, but Kizer’s game-winning touchdown pass gives the quarterbacks the B+. Without that pass, we would be talking about what Notre Dame’s hopes for making the playoffs look like for next season. When Zaire was at the helm of the offense, the offense struggled at all levels. The offensive line gave him little to no time to stay in the pocket and make a pass, his receivers failed to separate from their opposition of defense on several plays and Zaire made a good amount of bad reads. He completed seven of 18 passes for 115 yards with a touchdown. 59 of those yards came on the deep pass to Fuller that went for a score, so if you take that play away, Zaire finishes six of 17 passes for 56 yards.
After Zaire went down with the ankle injury, Kizer, who I can guarantee not many people had faith in, came in and played effectively and with poise. He completed eight of 12 passes for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass to Fuller. With all the pressure and the odds stacked against him, Kizer came into the game and made the plays necessary to move the offense down the field and win the game against a team Notre Dame should have taken down by at least two touchdowns. He converted a key fourth down and completed a key pass to Prosise after being pushed out of the pocket, which set up the game winning score two plays later.
Just as a note, Notre Dame completed a grand total of zero third down conversions on 10 attempts, which further makes the win against Virginia seem like a miracle. Teams don’t win football games if they don’t convert a single third down. But the Irish got away with it. Against Georgia Tech, don’t expect them to get away with it again. They are one of the highest scoring offenses so far, and Justin Thomas, the leader of the triple-option, is easily one of the most dangerous players in the country. Kizer and the rest of the team are going to have to play the best game of their careers to keep Notre Dame in the College Football Playoffs conversation.