Getting the chance to play in Philadelphia, scoring touchdowns in the home stadium of his favorite team was supposed to be a dream come true. Yet sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer, who has amazed fans and media members not just as a quick study on the field but with his polished approach off of it, ran afoul with his head coach—and the dastardly judge, jury and executioners on social media—with his touchdown celebration.
Kizer’s arm flapping was supposed to be an homage to the Eagles. Instead, it was viewed as some type of disrespect to Temple, whose Owl mascot also happens to be a proud feathered bird.
Can a wide receiver get away with such a stunt? Maybe. But the starting quarterback at Notre Dame? Brian Kelly made that abundantly clear this week when asked about it.
“Totally unacceptable. It’s not what we’re about. It’s not who we are,” Kelly said, before explaining the origins of the celebration. “DeShone understands that… But it’s not who we are as a team or as a program. It won’t happen again.”
That’s life in the spotlight. Run for a 79-yard touchdown and one of the most exciting plays a quarterback has ever made at Notre Dame and get hammered for your celebration afterwards. So as Kizer figures out the transition from largely anonymous college football player to starting quarterback on the No. 5 team in the nation, it’s all a process—even figuring out how best to act like you’ve been there before when you really haven’t.
“At the end of the day, it’s immature by me to do anything in the end zone. That reflects on myself and my team. I apologize for that,” Kizer said this Wednesday. “Moving forward, guys understand the slightest movement out there can be taken in any way. I need to make sure I think out my decisions before I make them on the field.”
Distracting celebrations aside, Kizer’s focus should be on another challenge road game. A week after the offense sputtered when it got into the scoring areas and Kizer turned the football over twice, the young quarterback knows Pat Narduzzi, one of the most aggressive and brilliant defensive minds working in college football, is likely coming right for him.
“Coach Narduzzi, he’s had a lot of success at Michigan State running the defense that he has. Pitt is buying in,” Kizer said. “They have all the talent in the world over there. They have fast guys. They have strong guys. They have guys that have been there and done it a couple times… They’re buying into what he is laying out for them.”
As the No. 5 team in the country, Notre Dame is technically the “next team in” when it comes to the four coveted playoff spots. But with a challenging schedule that’ll see the Irish play three of four games away from Notre Dame, it’s imperative that the Irish find a way to eliminate any doubt that they’re good enough to get the nod over other one (and no)-loss teams. That’ll likely be dictated by the play of Notre Dame’s accidental starting quarterback.
It’s a challenge that Kizer’s clearly ready for.
“It makes us put in our mind that we’re right there in the top. But we just understand there’s only one we’re going to end up accomplishing that goal, and that’s to win out and take care of business on our end of the things,” Kizer said. “I think that’s the mindset we’ve had all season, it’s going to continue go forward. As long as we go 1-0 each week, we’ll see where we end up at the end.”