Notre Dame’s 2015 season got off to a roaring start Saturday night under the bright lights of Notre Dame Stadium with a Texas sized whipping of the Longhorns. The Irish dominated every facet of the game on their way to an easy 38-3 victory that could have been even more one sided had it not been for a couple self inflicted wounds.
With Pierce out, I’m still filling in for the Shamrock Stickers column. So here are four players who helped pave the way for Notre Dame’s domination of Texas.
Malik Zaire. Zaire wasn’t perfect on Saturday, but he was about as close to perfect as anyone could have hoped for in his first start in Notre Dame Stadium. Zaire turned in the 2nd best single game completion percentage in Notre Dame history by connecting on 19 of 22 throws for 319 yards and 3 touchdowns. What was most encouraging about Zaire’s performance, however, was how well he protected the football and how strong his decision making wise. He didn’t force anything and outside of one sack where he handled the ball with a little recklessness, Zaire kept the ball far, far away from the Texas defense.
Josh Adams. I could have went with CJ Prosise to represent the running backs here, but I’m giving the true freshman some praise here. Adams, a 3-star recruit coming off an ACL injury, took his first career touch 14 yards to paydirt for Notre Dame’s second touchdown of the game. Later on he ran 25 yards almost untouched right through the heart of the Texas defense for another touchdown. With Tarean Folston’s injury, Adams looks like he will be in line for a lot more carries than anyone ever expected he’d get this year. He finished with 49 yards on 5 carries and reached the endzone twice. Not too shabby for a true frosh.
Jaylon Smith. Smith looked bigger and more physical than he did a year ago on Saturday. He led the Irish with 7 tackles and picked up his first sack of the season (1 of 4 for the Irish on the day). The play that stood out to me however came in the second quarter when Tyrone Swoopes escaped from the pocket and had only Smith in his way for a first down. Smith locked onto Swoopes and made a hell of an open field tackle on a big, mobile quarterback and got the Irish off the field. Smith is always all over the field, but that play in particular stood out to be as evidence of the evolution of his game.
Will Fuller. Big plays are no longer surprises from Will Fuller. They are expected and the junior wide receiver delivered again on Saturday with 142 yards on 7 catches with 2 touchdowns. The highlight of his night was his 66 yard bomb from Zaire where, as is customary for Fuller, he got behind the defense and raced into the endzone almost uncontested to put the Irish up 24-3. A year after finding the endzone 15 times, Fuller started off his 2015 campaign with two scores and looks to be well on his way toward climbing up the Notre Dame history books. Michael Floyd owns the career receiving TD mark with 37, but Fuller could find himself hot on heels Floyd’s tail at this rate.