Notre Dame gets back on track by trouncing Syracuse

Ralph D. Russo
Associated Press

East Rutherford, N.J. — Notre Dame will count this as progress after a week of upheaval and adjustments for a beleaguered defense. They might have been only leprechaun-sized steps forward, but the Fighting Irish will take it.

Notre Dame tightened up its tackling and held Syracuse to seven points in the second half, and DeShone Kizer made up for most of the Irish’s ills with one of the best passing games in school history.

Kizer threw for a career-best 471 yards and the Fighting Irish snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating Syracuse 50-33 Saturday.

In the first game since coach Brian Kelly fired coordinator Brian VanGorder, the Irish (2-3) allowed more than 30 points for the fourth time this season and 489 yards to Syracuse’s up-tempo spread offense.

“I wasn’t crazy about going against this offense. I much rather have been going against something a little bit different because of their tempo and how they spread you out and with all the freshman DBs that (we) play. That’s not always the greatest matchup,” Kelly said. “But I felt like the morale was really good on Wednesday and that’s what I was looking to get back. The morale.”

The tackling on punt coverage still needs work. Syracuse’s Brisly Estime had a 74-yard return late in the first half that set up a touchdown and left Kelly fuming on the sideline. Estime added a 38-yard return.

Kizer made it all OK for Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium.

He connected on three touchdown passes — two to Equanimeous St. Brown — that covered at least 54 yards each and ran for a score. Kizer hit a rough patch at end of the first half when he took a 17-yard sack that knocked the Irish out of field-goal range and threw an interception.

Kelly said he told Kizer at halftime to stop trying to force big plays.

“When we went back out, relaxed up, took his words and ran with it,” said Kizer, who threw for more yards in a victory than any quarterback in Notre Dame history.

Eric Dungey passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three scores for Syracuse (2-3).