SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — DeShone Kizer was learning to become Notre Dame's starting quarterback while struggling as a third-stringer and mulling a switch to baseball.
Kizer watched while Everett Golson and Malik Zaire competed for the starter's job in spring 2015, before Golson transferred to Florida State for his final season, and learned from Golson's "win from within" mentality.
"He really showed me how to be an elite competitor is to be able to compete against yourself and not really worry about the guy next to you. That's the way Everett was. So that whole competition kind of showed me the ins and outs of how a quarterback competition at an elite school should look," he said.
That attitude, along with his performance in a 50-47 double overtime loss at Texas on Sunday, helped him finally be declared the winner in the eight-month competition with Zaire that ended Wednesday when coach Brian Kelly told him he'd start when the 18th-ranked Fighting Irish (0-1) host Nevada (1-0) Saturday.
"He's the starter for this game and we know that based upon what he's done in the past he's been very effective as a starting quarterback. I expect him to continue in that role," coach Brian Kelly said. "If he's not effective, if he's not what we've known him to be, we've got one heck of a good quarterback ready to play."
Kelly said the competition was a dead heat until Kizer threw for five touchdowns and ran for another against Texas.
"He made a pretty big statement," he said.
Other things to watch for Saturday when the Wolf Pack faces Notre Dame:
MILLION DOLLAR GAME
The trip to South Bend will help Nevada with not only a game on national TV, but also a $1 million guarantee for facing the Irish. Polian said he would prefer Nevada, which plays at Purdue in two weeks, play one Power Five opponent.
"If we were supposed to win those games we'd be funded like a Power Five. If we were supposed to beat Pac-12 teams every year we'd be in the Pac-12. We're not. We're in the Mountain West," he said.
BOUNCE BACK BIDS
Nevada and the Irish are both looking for sharply improved play after disappointing opening-game overtime performances. The Wolf Pack struggled but held on against FCS Cal Poly, while the Irish gave up 50 points against Texas. Nevada coach Brian Polian was pleased with the mental toughness his team showed when faced with adversity.
"We took a deep breath, we collected ourselves and won the game in overtime," he said.
Kelly wants to see the Irish finish stronger.
"We didn't finish and that will be a watch word for this group as we move forward," Kelly said.
The game brings Polian, who grew up a Notre Dame fan, back to the school where he got his professional break when Charlie Weis hired him as an assistant in 2005. He is best remembered in South Bend for recruiting linebacker Manti Te'o from Hawaii. He's excited to be returning as Nevada head coach.
"I'm walking down the tunnel and I'm wearing silver and blue and I couldn't be prouder," Polian said. "I'm going to be on the correct sideline."
NOTRE DAME FANS
Polian said he's sure part of the Notre Dame fan base "thinks the sky is falling" following the loss to Texas. He knows how passionate Irish fans are. He said when he was at Notre Dame he was frequently stopped by fans to wish him luck and "in other cases offer you constructive criticism because apparently every Notre Dame fan in America is a football expert."
SHORT WEEK RECOVERY
Kelly said he thought the Irish recovered well during a short week after playing Sunday night in Texas. He said one problem was a hot, humid night Wednesday for players in dorms without air conditioning.
"Some guys didn't get a lot of sleep because it was pretty sticky on campus," Kelly said.