Five defining plays from Notre Dame's win over Texas

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame made plenty of plays in a 38-3 blowout victory over Texas on Saturday night, but these five plays stood as some of the defining plays of the game.

1. Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith sacks Texas QB Jerrod Heard just ahead of defensive linemen Isaac Rochell and Sheldon Day. 

Notre Dame’s defensive dominance started up front. Smith, Day and Rochell created chaos in the Texas backfield all game long. With all three bearing down on Heard, Smith rocketed ahead of the group to get the sack. Smith finished with a team-leading seven tackles and this one sack.

The stat sheet was less favorable to Day and Rochell, despite their great impacts on the game. Rochell was credited with two tackles and a split tackle for a loss. Day’s lone tackle came on a sack.

Another view of the play:

#9 Jaylon Smith with the tackle.

— South Bend Tribune (@SBTribune) September 6, 2015

2. Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller breaks open the game with a 66-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Malik Zaire.

Stop me if you’ve seen this before: Fuller running past defenders for a long touchdown. Texas looked lost many times on both sides of the ball during the game but never worse than it did here. You can’t let Notre Dame’s biggest deep threat get that wide open. The game shifted out of reach for Texas following the play.

The score marked Fuller’s second of the game as he tries to surpass his 15 touchdowns from last season. He ended the night with seven catches for 142 yards.

3. Freshman running back Josh Adams scores a 14-yard touchdown on his first career carry.

The night was filled with freshman firsts — including a sack for Jerry Tillery and field goal for Justin Yoon — but none were more surprising than the way Adams started his career. Some, including yours truly, projected Adams, when he signed in February, as a candidate to redshirt as a freshman. We were wrong.

Adams scored twice and rushed for 49 yards in his career debut and will be counted on regularly with starting running back Tarean Folston lost for the season with a knee injury. Adams showed both his speed and power by finishing this run in the end zone.

4. Quarterback Malik Zaire escapes the pass rush to deliver a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Will Fuller.

Zaire showed a tremendous amount of precision and composure in his second career start. Both were on display here. He avoided Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu’s unblocked pursuit before settling to his left to throw a dart. Even a slip when he released the pass didn’t prevent him from completing it.

The 19-of-22 passing effort from Zaire gave him an 86.4 percent completion rate, good for second-best in school history behind a 10-of-11 performance (90.9 percent) from Steve Beuerlein in 1984. The 313 passing yards and three touchdowns from Zaire showed he wasn’t settling for only short throws.

5. Defensive end Andrew Trumbetti, safeties Drue Tranquill and Elijah Shumate, and cornerback KeiVarae Russell combine to corral wide receiver Daje Johnson for a five-yard loss on third-and-3.

The swarming speed of Notre Dame’s defense was on display here. Rather than pound the ball up the middle in a short-yardage situation, Texas tried to run around the Irish and failed miserably.

Russell set the edge at his new nickelback position and Shumate the same despite being cut-blocked. Trumbetti lined up inside the right tackle at the snap, but stretched to the outside to prevent a cutback. When he missed the initial tackle, Tranquill, Russell and Shumate all quickly got a piece of Johnson.

The Irish limited the Longhorns to just 60 rushing yards in the game with nowhere to go on the inside or outside. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith (9) sacks Texas’s Jerrod Heard (13) during the Notre Dame-Texas NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN