Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2014 Edition

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: QB MALIK ZAIRE Sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire gave Irish fans plenty to think about during the four-month break before Notre Dame returns to the practice field in August. The lefty completed 18 of 27 pass attempts for 292 yards with two touchdowns in the Blue-Gold Game. And that's without the ability to run the ball, which is one of his strengths when compared to assumed starter Ev- erett Golson. Zaire didn't play a perfect game. He was sacked five times and nearly threw an interception on an ill-advised pass that exposed his lack of experience. His performance petered out in the sec- ond half, but he lived up to head coach Brian Kelly's description of him as a "gamer" during his first simulated live action since the Blue-Gold Game a year ago. Zaire's passes had a noticeable zip to them. He snuck a handful of throws to his receivers in good coverage, es- pecially a six-yard touchdown pass to senior slot receiver Amir Carlisle. Throughout spring practice, Zaire has maintained his belief that he can win the starting job this fall. He didn't go that far in Saturday's game, but Kelly and Notre Dame fans will prob- ably rest easier this summer knowing there are two capable quarterbacks on the roster. DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: DE ROMEO OKWARA Junior rush end Romeo Okwara got off to a slow start at his new position in March. After 14 practices, he seemed to have found a spot on the edge of the Irish line where he can be productive. He sacked the quarterback three times for combined losses of 29 yards and contributed to another stop behind the line of scrimmage on a rushing play. "I think we found a role for Romeo," head coach Brian Kelly said. "One that I think we feel a lot more comfortable where he is." Okwara was 17 years old when he got to Notre Dame's campus and is still growing into the player many projected he would become. Playing along the line of scrimmage was an adjustment this spring, but teammates and coaches both said the North Carolina product upped his game during the final two weeks of spring ball. He'll be an impor- tant part of the Irish front seven if he continues to gain weight and strength during the summer. TOP NEWCOMER: RB GREG BRYANT Two cuts through the defense got sophomore running back Greg Bry- ant into wide-open space during what turned into a 51-yard run (the lon- gest of the scrimmage) in the second half. Bryant, billed as a power runner, showed the mix of speed and instincts that make him a tantalizing prospect for the 2014 season. A knee injury sidelined Bryant for all but a few snaps during his fresh- man season. His return to the field has been anticipated since September, and he didn't disappoint in the Blue-Gold Game. He ran for game-high 95 yards on 12 carries, coming up a few feet short of a touchdown on one of his last SPRING SUPERLATIVES BY DAN MURPHY

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