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Zaire hits long pass, competition with Golson continues

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame’s spring game did little to determine who will be the starting quarterback in the fall other than showing Malik Zaire can throw a long pass but can’t catch one.

Zaire threw a perfectly timed 68-yard touchdown pass that Will Fuller caught at the 6 and raced in for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. But then on a flea-flicker play drawn up by a fan to start the third quarter, Everett Golson attempted a long pass to Zaire but safety Max Redfield jumped higher and picked it off. Redfield appeared to taunt Zaire lying on the ground, then took off and was credited with a touchdown even though officials blew the whistle at midfield.

Neither quarterback talked to the media after the game. Golson hasn’t talked to the media since the end of last season.

Coach Brian Kelly said each player needs to focus on his own play.

“All they can control is what’s in their purview and that is the fundamentals of what we’ve asked them to work on, and the rest they can’t really worry about. It’s not their call,” he said.

Zaire, who started the Music City Bowl in a win against LSU, had the slightly better game statistically, completing 8 of 14 passes for 137 yards with no interceptions.

Golson, who lost his starting job after committing 22 turnovers last season, was 7 of 15 passing for 83 yards with one interception.

Golson needs to work on consistency and efficiency with his read-option game and making good decisions. Kelly said Golson passed up a wide-open receiver that would have given the Irish more room to punt and instead tried to make a big play. He added Zaire needs to improve his focus and passing, saying he’s made great progress with his mechanics.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith said he’s pulling for whoever will help the Irish win.

“They both provide the ability to run and they both have a strong arm. It’s just about which one you want,” he said. “I’m glad I don’t get to make that decision.”