No quick fix for defense, but Irish get a victory

Published Oct. 2, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Notre Dame will count this as progress after a week of upheaval and adjustments for a beleaguered defense. It might have taken only small steps forward Saturday, but the Fighting Irish will take them.

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 Irish snapped a two-game losing streak by beating Syracuse 50-33.

In the first game since coach Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Monday, the Irish 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," Kelly said. "I'd 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 (defensive backs) that (we) play. That's not always the greatest matchup. But I felt like the morale was really good (at practice) Wednesday, and that's what I was looking to get back — the morale."

Kizer had three touchdown passes — two to Equanimeous St. Brown — that covered at least 54 yards each and ran for a score. At end of the first half, 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.

"(We) 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.

No. 14 Miami 35, Ga. Tech 21: Freshmen Shaquille Quarterman and Joe Jackson returned a fumble by Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas for a touchdown in less than a minute in the second quarter for the visiting Hurricanes in their ACC opener.

Miami led 28-7 after the fumble returns of 17 yards by Quarterman and 18 yards by Jackson. "We gifted them two scores in the second quarter," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "It ended up being a big momentum changer."

Georgia Tech was within 28-21 when Miami's Brad Kaaya threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley late in the third quarter. Miami, 4-0 for the first time since 2013, faces Florida State next weekend.

N.C. State 33, Wake Forest 16: Ryan Finley threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns to help the host Wolfpack win a league opener for the first time under fourth-year coach Dave Doeren. Matt Dayes ran for 125 yards and a score. Wake Forest was going for its first 5-0 start since 2006.

Virginia 34, Duke 20: With a defensive game plan that first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall called "the simplest plan we had yet," the Cavaliers intercepted five passes and forced six turnovers in snapping their 17-game road losing streak. The five interceptions tied the program record, last accomplished against Miami in 2010. Kurt Benkert threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns. Daniel Jones threw the five interceptions for Duke.

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BC 35, Buffalo 3: Patrick Towles threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns, Davon Jones and Jon Hilliman each ran for one, and host Boston College won its second straight. The Eagles, who entered with the nation's sixth-ranked defense, held Buffalo to 67 total yards of offense.

Pitt 43, Marshall 27: Nate Peterman threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder to Jester Weah with 1:04 to go as host Pittsburgh avoided a second-half meltdown. The Panthers let a 27-point halftime lead get narrowed to 30-27 and faced third and 3 from their 46-yard line when Peterman found Weah streaking down the left sideline. Avonte Maddox returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown on the game's final play.