Grades for Texas-Notre Dame: Malik Zaire steals the show

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Saturday's Texas-Notre Dame game.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Grades for Texas-Notre Dame: Malik Zaire steals the show

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Saturday’s Texas-Notre Dame game:

Texas Longhorns

– This is not the kind of step forward Texas fans were looking for from quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. The same sloppy throws and jumpy pocket presence that plagued him as a redshirt freshman showed up again all too often Saturday. Swoopes went 3-12 on passes targeted past the line of scrimmage and finished with a -3.6 overall grade.

– Swoopes isn’t solely to blame though as the Texas offensive line is still in shambles. I’ve never seen a high level college program have as many miscommunications on their offensive line in both run and pass. The main culprits were senior left guard Sedrick Flowers (-8.4) and freshman right guard Patrick Vahe (-4.6). The silver lining is that true freshman left tackle Connor Williams held his own with +1.5 grade and only two pressures allowed on 54 snaps.

– However, it wasn’t all bad news for the Longhorns. Junior Hassan Ridgeway looks like he’s ready to build upon a successful sophomore campaign. He may have only had one run stop, but Ridgeway generally had his way with the Notre Dame guards squeezing the interior gaps on their zone runs. Against the pass he collected one hit and one pressure for a +2.7 overall grade for the game.

Top performers:

DT Hassan Ridgeway (+2.7)

T Connor Williams (+1.5)

T Garrett Graff (+1.1)

S Jason Hall (+1.0)

CB Duke Thomas (+0.8)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

– How was that for a coming out party? Junior quarterback Malik Zaire showed the world on Saturday why the Irish were comfortable moving on from two-year starter Everett Golson. Zaire was 13-14 for 273 yards with three touchdowns on throws targeted at least 10 yards downfield. More impressive than his accuracy was his pocket presence. Zaire only looked to scramble as a last resort and kept his eyes downfield in the face of pressure. On seven pressured dropbacks he went 4-5 for 42 yards along with a scramble for 14 yards and one sack. Of his three incompletions on the day, two hit the receivers hands and the other the receiver stopped his route. An extremely impressive performance from Zaire that showed him finish with a +6.2 overall grade.

– All the hype this offseason has been surrounding Notre Dame’s two top draft prospects: left tackle Ronnie Stanley and linebacker Jaylon Smith. Both put together clean, solid performances in Week 1. Stanley didn’t allow a pressure, but was dinged for a false start on Notre Dame’s very first drive and finished with a +2.0 overall grade. Smith made six stops on defense and finished with a +1.4 grade.

– Two other players receiving some draft hype did their best to justify it on Saturday. Junior wide receiver Will Fuller was uncoverable, running wild through the Texas secondary. He caught all seven of his targets for 142 yards and two touchdowns while earning a +3.0 overall grade. Senior defensive tackle Sheldon Day looks fully healthy after an up-and-down junior year. He collected eight pressures on 21 pass-rushing snaps and finished with a +4.6 overall grade.

Top performers:

QB Malik Zaire (+6.2)

DT Sheldon Day (+4.6)

C Nick Martin (+3.9)

WR Will Fuller (+3.0)

LT Ronnie Stanley (+2.0)


| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

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