CHICAGO – For those Notre Dame football fans that have waited a couple of years for solid – if not spectacular – play from the Fighting Irish quarterback, that wait is apparently over. However, it hasn’t reached this point without a little drama.
A week after starting quarterback Everett Golson was so horrendous that he was benched for the majority of a win against Michigan, the second-year player made up for that debacle by… violating a team rule and being benched at the start of Saturday’s game against Miami (Fla.) at Soldier Field.
“Our team rules are pretty simple as it relates to being on time,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly explained of Golson’s demotion. “It wasn't a big thing in terms of a disciplinary approach. But we have high standards and we hold all of our players to those standards.”
Golson didn’t start Saturday’s game, in fact, he didn’t finish it either. However, in between those time periods, he was simply magnificent in leading the 9th-ranked Irish to a 41-3 walloping of the Hurricanes (3-2).
“I thought Everett grew up today,” Kelly said. “He did some really good things throwing the football for us (and) managed some pressure situations very well.”
Notre Dame (5-0) handled so many facets of its play well that it is hard to single out just one player or one component. But in the case of Golson, he dominated throughout the course of the game that it was hard not to focus on him.
He entered the game following a short series led by back-up Tommy Rees that went nowhere. The junior misfired on two of his first three passes and it was at that point that Golson was inserted into the action.
He promptly guided his team 69 yards as they took a 7-0 lead that would prove to ultimately be enough, but the Irish were far from being finished with Miami.
The Irish defense was stunningly great yet again on the night. The Hurricanes had scored at least 38 points in each of its last three games, but after dropping a pair of sure scores early, Miami was pretty impotent the remainder of the game.
The ‘Canes compiled just 285 yards of total offense compared to 587 by Notre Dame.
“Defensively, after we settled down to the speed of the game, (we) limited a very good offense to not give up we didn't give up the big plays, and certainly we got a couple of breaks early on,” Kelly said. “I thought we adjusted well to the speed of the game after the first quarter, and again, we have now held University of Miami, Michigan, and Michigan State to not scoring a touchdown, and that's an incredible feat for our defense.”
In the past three victories, the Irish have allowed those opponents to score just 12 points.
Offensively, not only was Golson (17 of 22 passing for 186 yards) great, but his athleticism boosted a rushing attack that produced the second-most yards in Notre Dame history (376 yards). A stable Everett Golson, in both the passing and running game (he also rushed for 51 yards), proved impossible for Miami to contain.
“We had not run any zone read before,” Kelly said. “We were not comfortable going into that part of playbook. (Everett) has done a better job with it. I feel more confident in doing that with him. He's got to take care of the football and put the ball on the ground, but you know, again, that's the next step for us. We talked about our offense needed to step up and start to elevate its play, and today was a player, in particular, a group, and then some plays that all came together in a very good fashion for us.”
With the defense and offense clicking on all cylinders, Golson and the running backs being stellar, and the environment that Soldier Field and more than 60,000 predominantly Notre Dame fans provided, the ever-cautious Kelly couldn’t help but feel positive about the evening following the game.
“When they ran out of the tunnel it was a pretty exciting atmosphere,” Kelly said. “They are used to Notre Dame Stadium and 81,000 but the 60-plus thousand that were here tonight made for a great atmosphere here in Chicago. So again, from our standpoint, our football team really fed off that energy.”