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Eric Hansen | South Bend Tribune | September 16, 2015

Notre Dame football: Brian Kelly-coached QBs have fared well in 1st starts

  After an injury to Malik Zaire, DeShone Kizer entered the game and led the Irish to a 34-27 win over Virginia.

SOUTH BEND -- DeShone Kizer has history on his side Saturday, when the redshirt freshman make his first collegiate start.

Brian Kelly's history.

The last seven quarterbacks to make their starting debuts under the sixth-year Notre Dame head football coach have all ended up on the winning side of the ledger. That includes four at Notre Dame -- Malik Zaire [LSU, 2014], Everett Golson [Navy, 2012], Tommy Rees [Utah, 2010] and Dayne Crist [Purdue, 2010].

Rees' and Zaire's starts came against ranked teams and in games when the Irish were underdogs. Kizer's start Saturday against 14th-ranked Georgia Tech (2-0) will be too, even though No. 8 ND [2-0] is the higher-ranked squad.

Zaire, ND's junior starter, was lost for the season with a broken ankle, suffered Saturday in a 34-27 Irish win at Virginia. He underwent surgery Sunday morning.

Related: Brian Kelly speaks to emotional locker room after Zaire injury

Crist's victory broke a four-game losing streak by Notre Dame first-time starters [Evan Sharpley, Jimmy Clausen, Demetrius Jones, Brady Quinn].

Overall, Irish QBs are 21-10 in their first starts dating back to Sept. 15, 1975, when Rick Slager's 72 yards in total offense [all passing] was enough to coax the Irish to a 17-3 win over Boston College. Less than a month later, a QB named Joe Montana amassed 19 yards in total offense in his first start, a 10-3 loss to Michigan State.

Three Cincinnati quarterbacks -- Zach Collaros, Chazz Anderson and Tony Pike -- started the Kelly win streak with newby starters.

The last Kelly-coached QB to lose his first start, and the only one to do so in the 12 seasons that Kelly has been coaching on the FBS level, was Central Michigan redshirt freshman Dan LeFevour in 2006.

He made what was technically his relief debut in the season opener, coming in on the Chippewas' second offensive play against a Boston College team that went on to finish 10-3 and was quarterbacked by eventual first-round draft choice Matt Ryan. And LeFevour threw a scare into the Eagles before Central Michigan eventually fell, 31-24.

The actual first start came for LeFevour the next week in Ann Arbor, Mich., a 41-17 loss to a Michigan team that won its first 11 games and rose to No. 2 in the polls before being edged by No. 1 Ohio State, 42-39, in its regular-season finale.

"It would be hard for me to put a finger on in particularly the wins and why we won the game," Kelly assessed when pressed to deliver a common thread. "It could have been the opposition. Maybe we played great defense.

"Maybe it had nothing to do with the offense. But I can tell you with quarterbacks that are going to go out there for the first time, you're really going to play to their strengths and what they do well. So everything that we do will be part of the system."

Related: Kelly believes Irish can vie for title with QB Kizer

Kizer was 8-of-12 for 92 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday against Virginia and ran the ball twice for a net of one yard. That included a three-yard sack, but also a four-yard run for a first down on fourth-and-two during the game-winning drive.

Against Texas on Sept. 5, in pure mop-up duty, Kizer threw an incompletion on his only pass attempt and ran twice for 10 yards.

"We recruited DeShone Kizer, because he can run the system of offense that I like to run," Kelly said. "So we're going to run our system. That's what we do.

"He does things a little bit different than Malik does, but they all are within the realm of the offense. It's just we'll choose a little bit from different chapters within the offensive system.

"I think DeShone will do quite well. We'll just feature some of the things that he does a little bit better or that are considered his strengths as a quarterback."

This article was written by Eric Hansen from South Bend Tribune, Ind. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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