SOUTH BEND – If you thought that bad quarterback play in the football game matching 11th-ranked Notre Dame and 18th-ranked Michigan would have any immediate ramifications for the future you can keep waiting. That is because according to both coaches, they are sticking with their current starters.
Notre Dame overcame poor play from starting quarterback Everett Golson (3 of 8 for 30 yards) by riding its impressive defense to a 13-6 victory in front of 80,795 fans at Notre Dame Stadium.
With the victory, the Fighting Irish snapped a three-game losing streak to the Wolverines (2-2) and improved to a perfect 4-0 mark.
“It was a great team win for our guys,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “It was just an incredible performance by our defense.”
That it was. But when it came to the offensive side of the ball? Not so much.
“As much as we would have liked to have executed better on offense,” Kelly explained, “give Michigan a lot of credit. They did a very good job defensively and we knew we were going to be in for this kind of close, tough, hard-nosed football game.”
The Irish offense languished under Golson's direction. On the sophomore's very first pass attempt, he badly underthrew Notre Dame receiver Chris Brown and it was picked off by the Michigan secondary.
“… Everett just needs to settle down,” Kelly said. “He was not as comfortable as I would have liked after playing the Michigan State game (last week's 20-3 Irish win), where he was in an incredible environment. He just needs to settle down a little bit and he'll be fine.”
Golson ultimately threw a pair of interceptions, the final one in the Notre Dame end zone with 8:07 remaining in the first half and Kelly had seen enough. The coach benched Golson and put in previous starter Tommy Rees (8 of 11 for 115 yards), who managed the game well.
“I think we are fairly comfortable if we need Tommy to come in and handle some of the offense for us,” Kelly said. “If we feel like it is necessary, we will.”
Rees played the remainder of the game and ran in the only Irish touchdown from two yards out late in the second quarter. However, Kelly was clear who his starting quarterback is, despite their performances Saturday.
“Everett is our starter,” Kelly said emphatically. “He'll have the week off (Notre Dame has a bye week) to evaluate all the things.”
Likewise, Michigan coach Brady Hoke is standing by his guy, even though Denard Robinson played worse than Golson.
Robinson led the Wolverines with 228 yards of total offense (138 passing), but misfired on 11 of 24 passes and threw four interceptions. In total, Michigan had six turnovers with the five interceptions happening consecutively (not a misprint).
Hoke was asked if he ever considered benching Robinson and he simply said “No,” without elaborating.
Even when Robinson was in disarray, Hoke never really discussed the previous turnovers with his quarterback.
“We always try and go to the next play,” Hoke said. “I mean, you have to. (Robinson) has done a pretty dog gone good job of being a quarterback at Michigan and made some good throws in the first half. What are you going to do, sit there and talk about each one of (the interceptions)? You've got to move forward.”