The (synthetic) grass is always greener

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Quarterback Malik Zaire looked good in the first half, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's scaled-down unit rebounded in the second, and Notre Dame's football team played its last game on natural grass inside the House that Rockne built.

Technically, the offense beat the defense 63-58 Saturday in the 85th annual Blue Gold game (or so they told us), but the contest's seminal moment was Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick's in-game announcement that FieldTurf would be installed for the 2014 football season.

"We had a strong predisposition to stay with a natural grass field," Swarbrick said. "However, the reality is that in two of the last three seasons since we moved Commencement to the Stadium, we have been unable to produce an acceptable playing surface. That, combined with the likely impacts of future construction at the Stadium, led to to conclude that we would continue to struggle to maintain a grass field that meets the expectations of our student-athletes and fans as it relates to appearance, performance and safety.

"Synthetic turf will assist our game preparation because our team will be able to play and practice on the same surface. We will also be able to utilize the Notre Dame Stadium field for practices on home football Fridays and other occasions, whereas that is currently unrealistic. Additionally, this change allows us to eliminate the risk to players posed by the asphalt perimeter that has to be maintained around our current field."

Saturday's contest was played on a part dirt, part yellow, part green surface that at one point resembled grass. The field will never look shoddy again.

"It's really about getting a surface where there's some consistency week in and week out for our players. We can't even practice out there. We want safety issues to not be part of the equation.

"Look, I think everyone is in agreement: if we (could) get the best surface out there on grass, we'd love to have that. We just haven't been able tot get to that. This is my fifth year here at Notre Dame and we haven't been able to get to that. This is the best option available to us."

Zaire Zings It

The players produced a combined 123 "points" on the stadium's current green-speckled, unstable surface Saturday, the massive number due largely to a scoring system that awarded points for such things as a field goal forced by the defense, "big chunk" plays (both run and pass), and real-life occurrences such as touchdowns.

There were four of the latter, two courtesy the left arm of redshirt-freshman quarterback Malik Zaire, easily the most impressive signal caller of the afternoon.

"Just makin' plays. That's what they brought me here to do," said Zaire of his scoring strikes, the latter a six-yard bullet to senior slot receiver Amir Carlisle. "That's what they brought the whole unit here to do, as a team, as an offense. To make plays. And that's what we did."

Zaire hit 18 of 25 passes for 292 yards to augment his two scores. He was "sacked" (in this case, touched), five times. Presumed starter Everett Golson completed 13 of 24 throws for 154 yards while running for a touchdown. Neither passer tossed an interception.

"There was a little bit better attention to detail in terms of what they have to have at that position," said Kelly of the quarterback tandem. "I thought there was one series where Malik got away from some of the things we need to do, but by-and-large, I thought he was fairly consistent. His problem has been staying with progressions. That was really good today. The consistency was much better for him."

"Everett, in terms of pocket awareness, was okay. He's still got a ways to go there. I'd like to see some more catchable balls. I thought there was some quick game (quick pass) stuff where his ball placement has to be a little bit better.

"Overall, structurally, his understanding of what we're doing is getting better. I thought there was some progress."

Greg Bryant shined in his first spring game

Redshirt-freshman running back Greg Bryant was the third from his position to enter the contest but he produced the best numbers nonetheless, totaling 101 yards on 12 carries including a breathtaking 51-yard scamper that began (two lethal cuts in space to elude would-be tacklers) much better than it ended.

"I just don't know what those moves against air are right now," Kelly joked of Bryant's concluding steps that resulted in him stepping out of bounds. "He's a physical kid. He's fun to coach. He's full of energy, he's fun to coach, and he loves to play the game."

Backfield mates Tarean Folston (7 carries, 38 yards) and Cam McDaniel (9, 33, with a touchdown) shined in the passing game with Folston catching five balls of for 54 yards and McDaniel producing the best catch of the afternoon -- a leaping, twisting snatch of a Golson pass thrown behind him for 16 yards down the seam.

"I thought you saw it today, all three facets: running the football with some toughness, getting on the perimeter, pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. I thought they really checked the boxes on all three."

Junior C.J. Prosise added the game's remaining score, a 39-yard-catch and run from Zaire late in the first quarter. Prosise collected a touchdown reception in last year's contest as well.

Junior safety Nicky Baratti appeared to be the game's only casualty, leaving the contest in the second half with a right shoulder injury. Baratti had his left shoulder twice repaired since his last game appearance -- the BCS Championship game, January 7, 2013. Top Stories