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Zaire's big day Saturday clouds Notre Dame quarterback competition

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For more on Notre Dame football, follow Justin Kenny on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/jkenny_ns

The sophomore threw for close to 300 yards in the Blue-Gold Game

Sunday, April 13, 2014 - 11:32 pm

SOUTH BEND – Even after sophomore Malik Zaire proclaimed earlier this spring that he expected to be behind center as the starting quarterback against Rice, many people outside of the Notre Dame program gave him little chance of doing so.

Some perceptions were changed on Saturday.

Zaire threw for 292 yards and a pair of scores on 18-of-25 passing to help the offense to a 63-58 victory over the defense in Saturday's annual Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium.

The buzz following the scrimmage was Zaire, who showed the ability to move in the pocket, scramble out of it and hit receivers downfield.

Zaire displayed everything from the ability to hit receivers in the flat out of the backfield to long bombs downfield.

He even threw a bomb to early-enrollee Justin Brent that traveled close to 65 yards in the air, but was just out of reach of the wideout.

“This is kind of like the party in my instance,” said Zaire about the spring game. “The spring was definitely a learning experience because a lot of stuff was new to us.”

Zaire looked pretty comfortable in the offense, although Coach Brian Kelly did point out that his sophomore quarterback had some miscues in some sets.

“I felt there was one series where Malik kind of got away from some of the things we need to do,” Kelly said. “But by and large I felt like he was fairly consistent.

“His problem has been consistency in staying with progressions.”

Zaire led the Fighting Irish offense down the field all five of his possessions in which he worked in the first half, with him and Everett Golson alternating possessions. Notre Dame scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half with Zaire behind center, with the other two possessions resulting in missed field goals.

Golson finished 13-of-24 for 154 yards and showed flashes as well. But while many have come accustomed to see Golson perform the way he did, it was not as big of a story as what Zaire did.

One of the negatives that could be taken out of Zaire's play was the five sacks he suffered. The quarterbacks were off-limits in terms of contact and were ruled down by touch, leading to the consideration that some of those sacks could have been avoided in a game setting.

With Kelly not planning on naming a starter at quarterback anytime soon, Zaire plans to continue working over the summer to continue to push Golson.

“I'm always (thinking) as if nobody is giving me a chance and I think that's really my (feeling) on it,” Zaire said. “I feel like not enough people are giving me that chance and that opportunity, that's my personal belief.”

Zaire changed plenty of minds on Saturday.