Malik Zaire Steals the Show

Malik Zaire - 2014 Notre Dame Blue Gold Game
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) prepares for the snap in the first quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The 85th Annual Notre Dame Blue and Gold game this weekend was supposed to be all about the return of Everett Golson after the former starting quarterback spent last season exiled following his poor academic judgement last year. Someone forgot to tell rising sophomore Malik Zaire.

Zaire, playing in his second Blue – Gold game after enrolling early last year upstaged Golson’s return with an impressive performance while guiding the offense on three separate touchdown drives – two of which came from his strong left arm.

Before the final whistle sounded, Zaire completed 18 of 27 passes for 292 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions compared to Golson’s stat line of 13 of 23 for 160 yards without a passing touchdown. Had you shown those stat lines to anyone prior to Saturday’s Blue and Gold game and asked them to guess who owned each, most people who have had them reversed.

The reason Zaire’s performance was surprising was primarily because he didn’t exactly light it up in the spring before Saturday’s scrimmage. “His problem has been consistency of staying with progressions,” Brian Kelly said to the media Saturday afternoon. “So that has been really good today, the consistency was much better for him,” he added.

Zaire showed good pocket awareness at times and when the ball came out, it come out quickly and more often than not, it came out very accurately. He wasn’t perfect, but from start to finish, Zaire was consistently impressive in his performance. “I thought that there was one series where Malik kind of got away from some of the things that we needed to do, but by and large, I thought he was fairly consistent,” Kelly said.

Some of the things that Zaire did that got away from what the offense needed to do was hold onto the ball too long at times. Zaire was officially credited with being sacked five times, but that number could have been higher had a couple of plays been whistled dead as they should have been. Interestingly enough, Golson had the opposite problem. He tucked the ball and ran too early often and didn’t go through his progressions.

Zaire was also just a bit behind receivers at times – most notably on a deep ball to Will Fuller on the first drive of the game on a play that resulted in a big gain but should have been an easy six points for the offense.

Earlier this spring, Zaire told the media that he fully expected to be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame come August 30 when Rice comes to town. On Saturday, the sophomore to be backed up his talk with a strong performance that showed his coaches that he is more than capable of making plays in this offense.

Brian Kelly said on Saturday that he would like to have a clear starter and only play one quarterback throughout the 2014 season, but also wouldn’t say when he would be naming a starting quarterback. The odds are still very heaviliy in Everett Golson’s favor that he will be that quarterback for the Irish this fall, but Malik Zaire showed that he is not going to go down without a fight.

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    1. If you change the phrase:

      “I just want to win”


      “I just want to whine”

      It makes much more sense.

  1. Nothing much ever comes out of a ND spring game. Having said that, both
    QB’s are suffering a long layoff and playing w/ an inexperienced O line.

    I expect both to be improved greatly in the Fall. In 2012, Tommy came in to bail out Golson. In 2014, perhaps Zaire may be coming in to do the same.

  2. I’m wid yoo! Mr. Seppanen.

    The effeminate metrosexuals who whine about this are the modern day equivalent of the princess on the pea.

    And thanks for advocating the trenches. We are near America’s best on the OL and have a solid first DL.

    It’s Notre Dame football and and the lads are back. Kelly has built many things, including a great coaching staff, but his most undiscussed achievement is the roster depth and balance.

    It’s taken a long time to arrive here, but the program is almost, NEARLY,
    Riddle me this Jerry, if you care to answer: Who are the three WEAKEST
    starters on the offense? How good does your answer make you feel?

    1. Genius??? You crackin wise?

      Some people call me the space cowboy
      Some call me the gangster of loooove
      Some people call me Maurice
      Cause’ I speak of the pompitous of love

      People talk about me
      Say I’m doin’ you wrong, doin’ you wrong
      But don’t you worry baby don’t worry
      Cause’ I’m right here at home

      Cause’ I’m a picker
      I’m a grinner
      I’m a lover
      And I’m a sinner
      Playin’ my music in the sun
      I’m a joker
      I’m a smoker
      I’m a mid-night toker
      I get my lovin’ on the run
      Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

      1. You write beautifully, Shaz, hahahahahahaha. Mr. Miller would love you. Now get on a JETLINER and do some JUNGLE LOVE!!

        Go Irish

    1. bj,

      Remember this quote: “Where’s the offense?”

      or.. “We need a offense like Oregon’s”

      or… We need to hire Oregon’s offensive coordinator”

      You should. You only repeated them 5 times a week for 8 weeks.

      Oregon’s football stadium last had natural grass in 1968.

      Since then they have played on Astro Turf, Omni Turf, Nexturf, and currently, Field Turf, same as ND will have.

      Oregon, with their great team speed and a refinded spread offense, coupled with playing on a surface like Field Turf, fully complements that team speed and style, and improves their overall home field advantage.

      So you have to ask yourself…
      do you want ND’s offense (this offense) to have every advantage toward increased scoring output similar to that of Oregon, or do you still prefer The traditional, Charlie Weis Field of Dreams… “if we grow it, we can slow it” ???

      1. Well there you go and there you have it. Can’t believe I didn’t post this. Shame on me.

        Shazam wins the internet for today.

      2. I’m pretty sure bj needs to get on with creating his own

        Constructive criticism is one thing, but I’m not sure the last time I’ve seen him write anything remotely positive about ND. For a “fan”, he seems to hate everything about it, perpetually.

  3. architectural renderings, nine stories on three sides, one existing, the press box, each time they make a change, they screw it up, imagine rudy walking on to an artificial playing surface, did he fire all the groundskeepers, they should be protected, gggggggggggggggggggg

    1. Architectural Interpretations!

      Nine stories of advanced studies and unmatched educational resources along with press “suites’ worthy of a first rate football program.

      I imagine Rudy “running” on to the latest in field turf technology which highly complements what little speed and athletic ability he has, allowing him to fully appreciate his rare oppertunity.

  4. the fix was in, real turf never had a chance. look at the design of the campus crossroads project. soon the stadium will be a dark depressing cold place surrounded by two more nine story buildings(with the giant press box, shadows on three sides)you cant grow grass in a dungeon. wont be much sunlight in there. god it will be cold and depressing in november. real estate, the deal, revenue for towers that glorify the ego, it all makes me sick. kevin white was an idiot, this guy just wants to keep building something at any price. a tragedy

    1. Hmmm… the pictures of the project that I saw showed a bright, clean, warm, and inviting campus. Very modern with a bit of that old world charm.

      And the stadium, the glorious stadium, the center piece of the project was bathed in a warm soft golden glow as if The Almighty Father Himself had parted the sky’s and was smiling down upon it, and if you listeedn real carefully you could hear the melancholy hymn of the angles on high.

      Maybe you should look again?

    2. BJ, a half glass looks much better if viewed as being half full versus half empty. You seem awfully gloomy in your perspective. Too bad.

  5. The above five posts to Frank’s lucid analysis were also lucid and noteworthy. Perhaps our postings are stepping up to the caliber
    of this upcoming 2014 team!

    But Zaire did show on Saturday that:

    (1) Golson has no reason for either complacency or overconfidence (and
    Kelly has been on that from the get go)
    (2) Zaire has had enough positive experience that he is not going to cut and run merely because Kizer shows up in June and Barnett in January.
    (3) Zaire is readier and more competent than Rees was in 2010, Golson was in 2011 and Hendrix was in 2013 (though I hope that Andrew rips it up for Martin at Miami).
    (4) Zaire’s confidence will give him a shot to succeed if Golson is injured or dinged for a few plays.
    (5) This quarterback depth chart is Kizer’s arrival away from being the
    kind of depth chart that a perennial top 10 team should have.

    It’s still over 100 days til the Owls come a hootin’ on in.

    The QBS will both improve.
    ilson t net m
    cket exper

    1. You have to like Malik’s comfort level and confidence. It isn’t surprising at this point that his timing is better than Everett’s.

      The rocket to Carlisle in the end zone was so fast it was almost invisible. A QB who can do that consistently can conjure a lot of wins against the odds. It’s nice to think Malik has four years of improvement ahead.

  6. Don’t forget that the only receiver Golson has thrown to and his favorite weapon Davaris Daniels is suspended for the spring. Wait til he’s back in the fall.

  7. Zaire looked “OK”. Went to 1st WR every single time. Would have been sacked several teams without that red jersey. And threw a couple passes that he shouldn’t have into traffic. He has a long way to go. I’ll take the guy that hasn’t lost a regular season game over the guy that threw a few good passes against a vanilla spring game defense.

    1. I agree w/Brian. Mailk asserted himself as a guy who can run the O IF EG shows he can’t. Also, can’t wait to see the D turned loose. A lot of pressure applied by them even with vanilla D. But like any spring game, does that show plus for the D line or problems with the O’ line pass-blocking? RBs do look impressive. But again, is that due to weak LB play? We’ll know more by October. I’m cautiously optimistic.

    2. Still not happy with how uncomfortable Golson looked out there. You mention the vanilla defense in your post. Well, how come Golson looked so bad against that same vanilla defense?

      1. I have a suggestion. I could be wrong, but I think E & M were not playing against the same defense. BK had the 1st-team O against the 1st-team D; and the 2nd-team D against the 2d-team D. But I’m a NotaDame fan. I supp[ort whoever BK is more comfortable with. BK knows a little more than most of us about the fine-points he’s looking for.

      2. This comment about vanilla offense is just dumb he played against who was outthere. Also I counted two true sacks and trust me he will be hard to sack because he moves very well.

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