Well, there's no getting around it. Notre Dame's playoff hopes probably got sunk when quarterback Malik Zaire left the game with what sure looked like a broken ankle. Brian Kelly then confirmed in his post-game presser that it was exactly that and that Zaire is done for the season, so Kizer is your new ND quarterback.
That said, there was still a football game to finish after Zaire left in the third quarter, and after some major bumps, DeShone Kizer wrote himself a nice little chapter in Irish football lore by delivering an absolutely perfect bomb for a touchdown to Will Fuller, giving ND a 34-27 victory. It still sort of feels like a loss because of the Zaire injury, but the ledger says ND is 2-0, and hopefully the coaches and team can rally around themselves after yet another crippling injury loss. (Three guys ND couldn't lose this year - three. Jarron Jones, Tarean Folston and Malik Zaire. All gone for the year less than 105 minutes into the season. Life's not fair.)
The story of this game can be told in a few statistics, so here we go. If this article isn't quite as long or as gushing as last week's....well, you know why.
Notre Dame 0/10 on 3rd downs
This was an unacceptable number. Several of these third downs were of the short variety and through some combination of iffy play-calling and poor execution, the Irish simply didn't make it happen. Luckily, a couple of these were essentially negated - one by the fake field goal (a nifty call that turned out to be a lot more important than it appeared at the time) and another by Kizer's quarterback draw on 4th and 2 that kept the game going. But ND can't get away with this sort of performance more often than not. They shouldn't have today.
Prosise 17 carries at 9.1 yards per carry, Kizer 12 passes
Some of this was necessary because of game situation, but I don't get this stat line. C.J. Prosise was an absolute bull, going for 155 yards on his 17 carries, and barely saw the ball after his impressive 24-yard touchdown that put ND up 26-17 at the time. Kizer had to throw some passes, of course, especially after ND fell behind, but when he dropped back to pass on first down after the Irish forced and recovered a fumble (first forced turnover of the year!), still with a lead, that one was a head-scratcher. It led to a three-and-out.
Overall, ND ran 34 times at over seven yards per carry and passed 30 times for just over seven yards per attempt. Ideally you'd like to see some more running if you're having that much success with it. Hopefully that will come next week. Prosise and Fuller are indisputably the bell cows for this offense the remainder of the year, and Prosise in particular needs to see the ball more. Failing that, get Josh Adams and Dexter Williams involved. Adams had 3 carries for 10 yards, and Williams had 0 touches. ND can't go far having Kizer throw it as much as he was on pace to do for a full game today.
Matt Johns 289 yards passing, 2 TD, 0 INT
I'd be remiss if I didn't compliment Wahoos quarterback Matt Johns for playing the game of his life today. He fumbled the ball to ND on a blind-side hit, but other than that was excellent. A few of his throws were of the floater variety, but the Irish defense couldn't take advantage. There's a lot Brian VanGorder has to figure out - like why it took 5 or 6 times of UVA running that same fly sweep to Taquan Mizzell before ND could stop it and like why he and Canaan Severin, the only two offensive stars for UVA, kept running free. But Johns deserves some credit for hanging in under pressure - the ND defensive line was very good for the most part - and making some catchable throws.
UVA 9 penalties, 55 yards
Not a ton of penalty yardage against the Cavs in this game, but what there was was huge. Penalties nullified a couple of big third-down plays, including one that got inside the ND 10 and led to a missed field goal on the first UVA drive of the second half. Another big penalty, an ineligible man downfield, should have submarined a drive, but Johns converted a 3rd and 15 for 34 yards to Ryan Santoro.
Overall, this just sucks
There's no real way to feel that great about today. I don't think everything is automatically going to go to hell for ND - Kizer might be good enough to get ND wins in 1 of the Georgia Tech/USC/Clemson triumvirate, which is at a minimum what it would take to reach a New Year's 6 bowl - but competing for the playoffs doesn't seem possible. We're not Ohio State, we don't have superstar quarterbacks falling out of the sky left and right. Zaire had displayed enough flashes that there was hope. His long bomb touchdown to Will Fuller, after playing terrible football much of the game to that point, showed some impressive resilience. He deserved better than this. Hopefully he will handle this as well as he handled everything else to this point and come back strong in 2016. Until then, ND will ride with Kizer and see what happens.