The host Irish led from wire to wire, buoyed by a balanced first half effort that included first downs gained by eight different players to claim a 17-0 halftime advantage.
Texas earned just four first downs in the first half and eight for the contest compared to Notre Dame's 30 chain moving drives. The visitors gained a paltry 75 yards in the opening stanza and 163 for the contest while the Irish rolled up 527 yards on 75 snaps -- the luxury of owning 23 more plays than afforded to their guests.
Though they ran at will, most of Notre Dame’s damage was done through the air as Zaire completed 9 of his first 10 passes and 19 of 22 overall to the tune of 313 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers.
"We believed in Malik. We trust in him," said Kelly. "There are a number of things he saw for the first time that he'll get better from. The game plan was such that we wanted to run the football. We did that, and gave him some throws that really would be high percentage for him and I think it worked out well for him."
The 60-minute Irish celebration was marred by what appeared to be a serious knee injury suffered by junior running back Tarean Folston early in the first quarter. Kelly noted post-game they won't know more until Folston receives an MRI Sunday morning.
Converted slot receiver C.J. Prosise shined in Folston’s stead, leading the Irish with 98 rushing yards. But it was third-string freshman Josh Adams that made memories, scoring a pair of touchdowns on the evening the first from 14 yards out over the right side (on his first career carry), then another from the 25-yard line, untouched through the heart of the Texas defense.
"Quick study," said Kelly of Adams' performance in training camp. "He was able to pick up all the protections early on. A really locked in, smart kid. You all saw what kind of skill he has. He has elite speed. He has good size. And obviously he's a kid we believe in."
Junior wide receiver Will Fuller provided the game’s first score, a 16-yard strike from Zaire, later adding a 66-yarder down the Texas sideline in the third quarter to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 24-3. The trips to pay dirt marked the 12th contest in Fuller’s last 14 that he’s produced at least one touchdown through the air.
Senior Chris Brown closed out the scoring brigade with a 6-yard touchdown catch from Zaire early in the final quarter.
The offensively impotent Longhorns' only score followed its biggest gain of the contest, a 45-yard post strike midway through the third quarter that set up kicker Nick Rose from 41 yards out.
"We're just a better football team than we showed," said Texas head coach Charlie Strong after first complimenting Notre Dame's decisive victory along both lines of scrimmage.
Texas rushed for just 60 yards on 29 carries and missed on 15 of 23 pass attempts.
Conversely, aside from a quartet of false start penalties, Notre Dame was nearly flawless.
"They were excited about their preparation and then putting it together," said Kelly of his squad's reaction post-game. "I knew we were excited about playing, our pre-game meal lasted about two-and-a-half minutes.
"Except for a couple of procedure penalties where we had a hard time hearing cadence, we felt the things you normally see in an opener were not there. I think that's attributed to a lot of great leaders on our football team."