Notre Dame opened the 2015 with an extremely easy 38-3 victory over Texas. The Irish jumped to an early lead and never were threatened.
The expectations for the Irish coming in were extremely high. Now they are even loftier. Notre Dame dominated both offensively and defensively and head into week two with tons of positive momentum.
Picking just five things to takeaway after the Irish blow out is a bit difficult. But here we go.
1. Malik Zaire’s Accuracy
Since the quarterback from Kettering, Ohio, arrived at Notre Dame, the big question about his game was the accuracy of his throws. Zaire was a wishbone quarterback in high school and needed to develop as a thrower in college. Saturday night, Zaire looked like a polished product in the pocket. Completing 19 of 22 passes with one of the misses a flat-out drop by freshman tight end Alize Jones is a clear indication that the lefty was on target. If Zaire plays like this going forward, the Irish offense will be especially explosive.
2. The Running Backs Must Stay Healthy
With Greg Bryant leaving the program following his academic suspension and now the season-ending MCL injury to Tarean Folston, Notre Dame has become perilously thin at running back. C.J. Prosise will carry the load as the starter going forward and two freshmen, Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, will be the primary reserves. The Irish will need all three this fall and all of them must remain on the field.
3. The Offensive Line
No matter who is carrying the ball, running behind this offensive line should be fun. Yes, there were a few hiccups with illegal motion penalties. But Ronnie Stanley, Quentin Nelson, Nick Martin, Steve Elmer and Mike McGlinchey kept Zaire very clean and opened up huge holes in the running game. Many around the team thought that this could be one of the best Notre Dame offensive lines in quite some time. This unit certainly looked the part on Saturday night.
4. Defensive Speed
Throughout the years, Notre Dame detractors have noted the team’s lack of speed on defense as an Achilles heel. Not this season. Max Redfield is fast. KeiVarae Russell and Cole Luke are fast. Sheldon Day is tough to contain because of how quick he gets off the ball. And Jaylon Smith is really, really fast for a linebacker. Texas is not a very good offensive team. However, they always recruit dynamic athletes and Notre Dame’s defense appeared to be flying everywhere, making the Longhorns seem slow. Texas being unsure on offense was part of the reason; Notre Dame’s team speed also was a huge factor.
5. Notre Dame’s Multiple Defensive Looks
Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder is known for sending one blitz package after another. The Texas game consisted of a little different approach. The Irish did send a lot of pressure at times, but the defense also dropped back in coverage on others. Defensive end Isaac Rochell lined up on the nose in a 3-4 set several times and was inside as a defensive tackle in the standard 4-3 as well. The variety of looks gives future opponents’ offensive coordinators a lot to think about.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.