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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Quarterback DeShone Kizer was benched for three possessions against Stanford, but coach Brian Kelly reiterated that Kizer is the starter.

Sunday, October 16, 2016 10:02 pm

Irish say bye week will do them good

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – In college football, players and coaches discuss bye weeks in tones of reverence. A weekend without a game is always well-timed, the mystic antidote for any and all ailments, the perfect springboard to a strong finish, or so go the clichés.

For Notre Dame, whose season sank lower Saturday night with a 17-10 home loss to Stanford, talk about the timing and value of the bye week might intersect neatly with reality. The Irish (2-5) don’t have another game until Miami (4-2) visits Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 29, two days before Halloween.

"Morale’s a little low," senior cornerback Cole Luke said. "I think (the bye) will be good for everybody to go home, spend time with their family, rest. You know, just connect with the ones around them and get off their feet and let their bodies rest."

The break from football coincides with a break from class with the university on a weeklong fall break. In the second half Saturday, Notre Dame played like a team weighed down mentally, letting Stanford (4-2) climb back into the game thanks to Irish turnovers, bad snaps and penalties.

In his postgame news conference, Irish coach Brian Kelly uttered a memorable line encapsulating the noise that can affect his players.

"Everybody knows where we’re at," Kelly said. "We’re 2-5, and we’re going to get reminded of it by everybody in the country about a million times."

Rather than staying immersed in the atmosphere of a season gone terribly wrong, Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey sounded eager to put some distance between the tough losses and the final five games.

"We can get some rest," McGlinchey said. "Football season is long and grueling, so bye weeks are always huge for that. I don’t think the team needs anything too specific. There’s nothing that can change that we’re 2-5."

The one lingering storyline for Notre Dame will be Kelly’s decision to bench quarterback DeShone Kizer for three possessions in the second half. Stanford had intercepted Kizer on back-to-back drives when Kelly turned to Malik Zaire, who failed to produce a first down.

The move was criticized in certain precincts during and after the game. But Kelly said he didn’t regret the substitution.

"No, absolutely not," Kelly said. "It just felt like we needed some momentum. Malik is a really good quarterback, and I just felt like at that time he would provide that for us. I just thought he would be a catalyst in that situation. In no way, shape or form would I regret ever going to Malik Zaire."

Still, Kelly reiterated Kizer is the starter, and Notre Dame is clinging to a belief the bye will serve as a tourniquet. Nothing else has stopped the bleeding, so this week off is a built-in Hail Mary.

"We just have to keep looking forward," receiver Torii Hunter Jr. said. "Don’t live in the past."

Notes: Kelly clarified Sunday that starting right guard Colin McGovern missed Saturday’s game due to a concussion. ... Sunday morning, the official statistics were changed to credit Stanford’s fumble recovery in the end zone to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a receiver, rather than center Jesse Burkett.

cgoff@jg.net