Zaire, Day lead Notre Dame in PFF grades

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Box scores can be deceiving. Especially when you look at Sheldon Day‘s performance on the field with the numbers he put down on paper. Notre Dame’s senior captain was the Irish’s most dominant defender, according to Pro Football Focus. The research-heavy, game-tape tracking football website had nothing but love for a large contingent of Notre Dame players, with quarterback Malik Zaire and Day leading the way.

So while some look at Day’s pedestrian numbers—his lone tackle happened to be a sack of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes—the senior tackle is earning rave reviews for his bludgeoning of Texas’ young and inexperienced offensive line.

On the offensive side of the ball, Zaire’s performance was graded as good as you expected. Zaire was 13 of 14 for 273 yards with three touchdowns on throws of 10 yards or more. According to PFF, he was 4 of 5 for 42 yards in pass-rush/pressure situations. And his three incompletions? Two hit the receiver in the hands and the third likely was caused because the receiver stopped his route.

(Don’t tell Brian Kelly, but Jeff Dooley of PFF already went there with Zaire and the Heisman.)

PFF also had good things to say about Will Fuller, as you might imagine. Notre Dame’s star receiver caught all seven of his targets for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Fifth-year captain Nick Martin also handled his job well, earning the highest grade along the offensive line, a nice sign that Martin at full strength will be a handful. (Jaylon Smith graded out at +1.4.)

You can read more here, but here are the top five performers from Saturday night according to PFF:

Malik Zaire, QB: (+6.2)
Sheldon Day, DT: (+4.6)
Nick Martin, C (+3.9)
Will Fuller, WR (+3.0)
Ronnie Stanley (+2.0)

Only Texas defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway finished with a grade above +2.0, earning a 2.7 for his work in the trenches against Notre Dame’s guards. Tyrone Swoops had a -3.6 while senior guard Sedrick Flowers (-8.4) and freshman Patrick Vahe (-4.6) were major problems up front for Texas.