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The Journal Gazette

October 16, 2016 1:09 AM

Second-half collapse dooms Irish in loss to Cardinal

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – A wacky season for Notre Dame took another strange turn Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

After quarterback DeShone Kizer’s second interception, he sat out three drives before re-entering to lead an ultimately fruitless final series as the Irish lost 17-10 to a Stanford team that was playing without star halfback Christian McCaffrey.

“No (injury to Kizer),” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “That was a coaching decision.”

Notre Dame dropped to 2-5, its hopes of reaching a bowl game looking ever grimmer.

“This is the no-apology zone,” Kelly said. “Everybody knows we’re 2-5, and we’re going to get reminded of it by everybody in the country about a million times. No one needs to apologize to anybody.”

But the odd part was the Irish had led 10-0 at halftime, getting impact plays from a much-maligned defense and watching Kizer rack up 85 yards and a TD on the ground.

The Cardinal (4-2) got back into the game on a 50-yard interception return for a score by Quenton Meeks early in the third quarter. On the next Irish possession, Kizer made an ill-advised throw under pressure that sailed nowhere near a receiver but instead right to Cardinal safety Dallas Lloyd.

That’s when Kelly cast light on a possible crack in his one-quarterback commitment, a pledge made after Kizer and Malik Zaire had shared time in the season opener at Texas.

After the game, Kelly put some of the questions to rest.

“I don't think there’s really a question about who the starting quarterback is,” Kelly said. “DeShone is the starting quarterback. Malik is a really good quarterback. I was looking for a little bit of energy (to) kind of stem the tide and the flow of the game, but DeShone Kizer is the starting quarterback.”

Zaire led three drives on Saturday night, and they resulted in two punts and a safety that cut Notre Dame’s advantage to 10-9. Center Sam Mustipher snapped the ball high and over Zaire’s head from the 5-yard line, and it bounded out of the end zone to give the Cardinal two points.

Stanford, which snapped a streak of the home team winning four straight in this rivalry, then went ahead with 10:38 to play on a fumble recovery in the end zone by junior center Jesse Burkett.

“I think we had it (first),” said Irish cornerback Cole Luke, who had an interception in the first half. “They came in late and dove on it and, you know, wrestled it away. That’s up to the officials.”

That play was followed by Bryce Love taking a pitch into the end zone on a misdirection play for the two-point conversion, fitting because Love was the star of the game filling in for one of the biggest stars in college football.

McCaffrey, the 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist, sat out to rest an injury suffered in last week’s blowout loss to Washington State.

Love ran 23 times for 129 yards and had a 9-yard catch.

“Defensively, we won the game,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Keep playing hard and good things can happen.

“We knew what we had in Bryce, and when Christian couldn’t play, he did a heck of a job.”

The Irish are entering a bye week that players said would be a much-needed reprieve.

“We like to believe we work the hardest in the country about our craft,” left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “I think we’re right on the cusp of winning games. All five of our losses this season were one possession away. It just hasn’t shaken out our way.”

Notes: Starting right guard Colin McGovern was a late pregame scratch for the Irish with an injury that was not immediately disclosed. … Kizer finished 14 for 26 with 154 yards and the two picks. He had an 8-yard TD run in the first quarter, and Justin Yoon hit a 29-yard field goal in the second.