SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As home debuts go, it doesn’t get much better than what Malik Zaire did in his first start at Notre Dame Stadium. The redshirt sophomore and the offense had its way, while the defense was relentless in No. 11 Notre Dame’s 38-3 domination of Texas on Saturday night.
Player of the game: Zaire was calm, cool and collected in his second career start. Zaire finished with as many incomplete passes as he did touchdown passes, going 19-of-22 for 313 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers. His 86.4 completion rate was the second-best in school history, trailing Steve Beuerlein, who went 10-of=11 against Colorado in 1984. Zaire added 16 rushing yards, and he got to call it a day early in the fourth quarter, allowing redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer to make his college debut.
Unsung hero: There are plenty to choose from here. We’ll start with the always-overlooked Will Fuller, who had seven catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns. And we cannot overlook the Irish defense, which made life absolutely miserable for Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, chasing him out of the pocket and hitting him all night. The Longhorns entered the fourth quarter with just 121 yards of offense.
What the win means for Notre Dame: This is what a team with College Football Playoff expectations needs to look like. It is just one game, and we don’t know how good or bad Texas really is, but the thorough domination was huge for a team breaking in a new full-time starting quarterback. Several freshmen -- Josh Adams (two TDs) and Jerry Tillery (one sack) -- stepped up as well. Tarean Folston left the game in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury, making Adams’ (and C.J. Prosise’s) contributions to the ground game all the more important, especially if the Irish might be without Folston for some time.
What the loss means for Texas: We knew it would be a struggle for a team starting two true freshmen on its offensive line, but we didn’t think it would be this bad. The Longhorns' offense was a lost cause for much of the night, their punting left much to be desired and their defensive backs repeatedly lost sight of Fuller, who should not be sneaking up on anyone after a 15-touchdown season last year. Texas must recover quickly, with three straight home games awaiting against Rice, Cal and Oklahoma State.