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Blue-Gold Instant Reaction: No Clarity In Quarterback Race

The grand Zaire v. Kizer showdown was essentially a stalemate, but there was some good stuff to see in the spring game.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly announced this week that the Blue-Gold game would feature a regular scoring system rather than being the offense vs. defense game we've seen the past few years, the implication was clear: This spring game would be Malik Zaire vs. DeShone Kizer.

In a development that wasn't surprising, given that Kelly has made clear there's been little separation between the two this spring, neither QB outplayed the other Saturday. Each led a TD drive, and if Zaire had been given another 10 seconds before halftime, each probably would have led a field goal drive as well. As it was, the Blue (Kizer) team led Zaire's Gold team 10-7 at halftime and would go on to win 17-7 after 4th-string QB Montgomery VanGorder led a TD drive in the closing minutes.

Kizer's Blue team got on the board first on its first drive, with the 'incumbent' starter coming out on fire with five straight completions. (Overall, Kizer did show more accuracy than we saw from him last season, with only one worm-burner throw that I can recall.) Dexter Williams showed off ND's embarrassment of riches at tailback, capping the Blue's drive with a nice TD run. (Apologies for the link - embedding was disabled for some reason.) Remember, he's the third-stringer behind Tarean Folston and Josh Adams.

Later in the half, Kizer would throw an absolutely perfect pass to early-enrollee freshman Kevin Stepherson that the latter dropped. Stepherson was a very common target for Kizer, showing that the Irish clearly think the kid can play. Let's hope that drop was a fluke.

Zaire, meanwhile, shook off his slow start and looked better later in the half. In fairness to him, he clearly faced more pressure than Kizer, including a couple of unblocked blitzers, and each time he handled that pressure admirably. One very nice play saw Zaire sidestep an unblocked Shaun Crawford, create a little bit of time and space, and loft a good throw to Justin Brent for a first down. That toss ultimately led to another play that showcased Zaire's ability, as he ad-libbed a cut back to the other side of the field on a zone read play and scored a TD to tie the score.

The rest of the game wasn't particularly interesting, but we caught glimpses of some future stars. Devin Studstill made a nifty shoestring tackle on a Zaire run. Alize Jones saw some action, though given all the chatter about him being split out wide I would've expected more run for him. At running back, Folston was in a non-contact jersey, so he didn't get much run, and Adams didn't get to show off much of the game-breaking ability we saw last year.

However, the game was about the quarterbacks, and in that regard we got little we didn't already know. Everyone who was #TeamKizer or #TeamMalik probably still is. I think ND is probably in good shape either way.