Stanford vs. Notre Dame: Game Grades, Analysis for Irish
Notre Dame is now 2-5. Let that sink in for just a moment. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a preseason Top 10 team with College Football Playoff aspirations have now won just two of its first seven games.
Week after week, we sit back after the final whistle and try and digest what we just saw. After seven weeks of junk, we're getting a serious case of indigestion. There's no getting around it: Notre Dame is not good. More than that, Notre Dame is downright bad.
Yes, we'll pick apart all of the ups and downs of tonight's performance in a 17-10 loss to Stanford, just like we've done every week. But it's now time to start asking the hard questions.
First, though, let's deal with the play on the field.
If you're a fan of following the game on Twitter as you watch from the stands or from your living-room couch, you have probably come across a few tweets about a desire by some to see Malik Zaire replace DeShone Kizer at quarterback.
We don't for a moment believe Brian Kelly takes coaching advice from the Twitterverse, but tonight, we saw Kelly (temporarily) bench Kizer in favor of Zaire after Kizer threw a pair of interceptions to open the second half.
Never mind that Kizer finished 14-of-26 for 154 yards and Zaire failed to complete a single pass (and averaged one yard on three rush attempts). Never mind that Notre Dame was averaging 5.6 yards per play with Kizer at quarterback and minus-1.3 per play with Zaire at quarterback. Never mind that these two guys competed all fall for the starting job and Kizer emerged as the winner.
Never mind the fickle folks on Twitter, either. Kelly's decisions at the quarterback position from game to game, and even in-game, show that he is doubting himself.
It's hard to blame a couple of young guys for a lack of consistency when the head coach doesn't give either a chance to develop that consistency.
Pass Offense grade: C
Finally, Tarean Folston made his return to action against Stanford. On his eight carries, he managed 49 yards. If you have a guy getting better than 6.1 yards per rush, why not feed him the football a little more than eight times?
Kizer added 83 yards and a touchdown (although 49 of those yards came on one play), and the Irish finished with 153 yards as a team.
It wasn't really a bad night in terms of running. But like the passing offense, the coaches never really gave the running game a chance to establish any consistency, opting instead to lean on the passing game.
You can probably see where we're going with this...
Run Offense grade: C
Believe it or not, the defense actually improved quite a bit. Yes, it helps that Notre Dame didn't have to worry about Christian McCaffrey, but we're willing to give credit where it's due.
Limiting Stanford to 120 yards passing should probably be tallied as a win.
Keeping Stanford from being able to put together big plays downfield (long of 21) should also be a good sign moving forward.
In fact, if we had to point to one side of the football to blame for tonight's loss, it wouldn't be the defense.
Pass Defense grade: B
Stanford went heavy with the run against Notre Dame, and it was fairly effective. Then again, given Notre Dame's defensive performance so far this year, you can't blame Cardinal coach David Shaw for developing a game plan that involved running the football right at the Notre Dame defense.
We saw far fewer easily broken arm tackles and defenders arriving late to their assignments. Instead, Notre Dame met the Cardinal head on, and the game was a defensive slugfest for much of its 60 minutes.
Believe it or not, the defense had held the opposition out of the end zone for most of the football game (and all of last week), which does indeed give us hope for the defense's future.
Run Defense grade: B-
Special teams can help break open a tight game, or it can cost you dearly. Notre Dame's special teams did neither against Stanford.
Justin Yoon connected on his only field-goal attempt of the night, while Tyler Newsome averaged nearly 45 yards on his three punts.
Perhaps a bit of a disappointment was C.J. Sanders, who had just a single kick return for 11 yards and one punt return for five yards. We all keep waiting for more of his dynamic return ability, and it looks like we'll continue to wait.
Special Teams grade: B
How much more, Mr. Kelly? How much more incredibly, unintelligible, unbelievable indecision are we going to see this season?
We might be able to forgive some of the play-call decisions (and that's a pretty big "might"), but what do you expect us to think about your continued wavering on your starting quarterback?
Look, coach, either Kizer is your guy or he isn't. Either you're going to stick with him or you're going to abandon him. But taking him out and putting him back in whenever the wind shifts isn't only maddening for the fans, it has to be utterly confusing for your quarterbacks.
But since we mentioned play calls, we'd really, really like to know who was responsible for that last fourth-down play call. That was simply inexcusable.
Coaching grade: F
All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from NCAA.com, CFBStats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Featured Columnist and Notre Dame Live Correspondent David Luther on Twitter @davidrluther.