SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Quarterback DeShone Kizer says Notre Dame players are remembering the pain they felt two years when they were embarrassed in a 49-14 loss to rival Southern California as the Fighting Irish prepare to finish a scuffling season on the road against the 12th-ranked Trojans.
“Coach, I remember, challenged us after that game to remember that feeling, and every time we play against USC to try to bring that and allow that to fuel us,” Kizer said. “That feeling is still there. It fueled me last year, and it will fuel me this year.”
The game against the Trojans (8-3), who have won seven straight after a 1-3 start, could be Kizer’s last with Notre Dame (4-7). He is being projected by many to be a first-round draft pick in the NFL, with some saying he could be a top-five pick.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior, who graduated from Central Catholic High School, has two years of eligibility left, wasn’t in reflective mood Tuesday when talking to reporters, declining to speculate about his future. But after a 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday that ensured Notre Dame’s first losing season since Brian Kelly became coach in 2010, Kizer spent time on the field after the game with his parents and outgoing seniors taking in the scene with their families. Kizer, who completed just 3 of 15 passes for 36 yards in the second half against the Hokies, said he had done the same thing last year as well.
“I think it’s awesome to soak in the moment,” Kizer said. “That was our last game [at home] for the 2016 team, and I think that it was an awesome opportunity to take it all in with my family. The ups and downs.”
Kizer, a junior, has said he will make his decision after talking with his family when the season ends on Saturday. He talked two weeks ago about competing with Malik Zaire, whom he beat out this year for the starter’s job, and sophomore Brandon Wimbush, who redshirted this season, to be the starter next season, although many expect Zaire to switch to another school for his final year of eligibility after graduating from Notre Dame.
Kizer was frank when talking to reporters after the loss to Virginia Tech about this season’s disappointments, with all seven losses coming by eight points or less, three of those after leading by 10 points or more.
“I think that I did a good job of avoiding all your guys’ questions through all the other losses and at this point, what else am I supposed to say?” he said. “It’s just unfortunate this is how the season has gone. I do believe that in every game we played, we had an opportunity to win. We beat ourselves, in a sense, from stupid penalties, stupid decisions on reads.”
He said the announcement Tuesday by the NCAA that it was ordering Notre Dame to vacate 21 wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which the school said it will appeal, will have no effect on the team as they prepare to play USC.
“All we have in front of us is USC. Whatever comes from the past is not going to affect how we go about beating USC,” he said.
Kizer heads into the game against the Trojans with a 12-10 record as a starter after winning eight of his first nine starts. Whether he plays again for the Irish or tries for the NFL remains to be seen.
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