FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2015, file photo, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws against Wake Forest during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. Kizer knows after throwing three interceptions last week he needs to
Michael Conroy, File
November 26, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer threw three interceptions last week. He knows more is expected when the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish play No. 13 Stanford with a possible playoff berth at stake Saturday.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore is a big reason why the Irish (10-1, No. 6 CFP) remain in playoff contention, but he's coming off his worst performance of the season - he barely completed half of his season-high 38 passes and looked befuddled at times by the Boston College defense in a 19-16 victory.

Kizer said he missed some things he should have keyed in on. He also needs to not put ''the ball in harm's way.''

''There are situations where I've got to take sacks rather than throw the ball down the middle of the field. It's just not a smart move by me,'' he said. ''Turnovers are unacceptable at this time of the year.''

Even with the disappointing game, Kizer ranks 19th in the nation in pass efficiency rating at 152.5. That's seven spots higher than Florida State's Everett Golson, Notre Dame's starter last season. It also ranks as the fifth best rating in Notre Dame history.

Coach Brian Kelly has seen Kizer showcase an ability to put bad plays and games behind him.

''It's who he is. It's in his upbringing, his parents. It's in who he is as a person,'' Kelly said. ''He's a very strong person. He knows who he is. He's comfortable in who he is as a person. So just a strong character kid that can recognize when he makes a mistake and he can move past it. And that's why he's destined to be a great player because he can learn from his mistakes and move on.''

Kelly has told Kizer he doesn't need to be the reason the Irish win, he just can't be the reason they lose. Kizer understands.

''You have to make sure you're in the right play - whether it be run or pass - and that you're getting the ball to the veterans or the playmakers or the hot-hand at the time,'' Kizer said.

The Irish will likely be without a key playmaker at Stanford (9-2) because leading rusher C.J. Prosise sustained a high ankle sprain last week, meaning freshman Josh Adams likely will start. Adams started two games ago against Wake Forest when Prosise was out with a concussion.

Adams has rushed for 592 yards on 84 carries, the fourth highest total for a freshman in a season at Notre Dame. The record is 786 yards, set by Darius Walker in 2004. Adams ran for 39 yards on seven carries against Boston College, but fumbled the ball on the BC 3-yard line, costing the Irish a scoring opportunity.

Kelly blamed Adams' lower production on the Irish calling on him to run inside more.

''We asked him to get some tough yardage on Saturday. The kind of runs that he was making were between the tackles. So they were tough yards,'' he said.

So the Irish will go into their biggest game of the season depending on a first-year quarterback and a freshman running back with one career start. It's been that kind of season for the Irish, who because of injuries will finish the regular season missing 12 players expected to be either starters or key contributors.

Kelly said the Irish haven't let the adversity bother them.

''They just keep going and they keep moving forward. That's kind of the mentality of this group. They don't get fazed by much,'' he said.

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