Sometimes the box score does not tell an accurate story of a game. Saturday night in South Bend, however, it did:
Total yards: Notre Dame 527, Texas 163
First downs: Notre Dame 30, Texas 8
Yards per pass attempt: Notre Dame 13.0, Texas 3.8
Yards per rush: Notre Dame 4.1, Texas 2.1
Third downs: Notre Dame 8-of-14, Texas 2-0f-14
Time of possession: Notre Dame 39:10, Texas 20:50
And, of course, the only stat that matters: No. 11 Notre Dame 38, Texas 3
The Irish completely flattened Texas on both sides of the ball, displaying a thorough physical superiority at every level of the contest. Malik Zaire, making just his second start, completed 19-of-22 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns. Tyrone Swoopes, making his 13th start, threw for 93 yards on 7-of-22 passing. Swoopes also added 17 yards on 10 carries, a necessary number because he spent most of his evening running for his life away from Jaylon Smith and the remainder of the Notre Dame front.
Notre Dame punted only five times in its 12 possessions, Texas punted on all but two – and one of those non-punting drives ended in a missed field goal.
Notre Dame led 14-0 after one quarter and 17-0 at the break. After the Longhorns pulled within 17-3 with 8:36 to go in the third quarter, Notre Dame answered by scoring touchdowns on its next three possessions while forcing two Texas three-and-outs in the interim.
Everything Notre Dame tried worked; seven Fighting Irish caught passes and nine of them carried the ball. Will Fuller led the way through the air with seven grabs for 142 yards and two touchdowns. C.J. Prosise filled in for an Tarean Folston, who left the game in the first quarter with a left knee injury, and rushed for a career-high 98 yards on 20 carries.
In the end, Saturday night confirmed what we thought about both teams in preseason. Notre Dame is every bit a College Football Playoff contender, and Texas is a long, long, long way away from that.
Then again, one didn’t have to watch the game to surmise that. Just look at the box score.