Golson has demonstrated at different times this season, in leading the fourth-ranked Irish to a perfect 9-0 record, that he can run an efficient offense. Against Michigan State, Miami and Oklahoma, he was – at times – breathtaking in his play. In his first season of playing college football, he's completed nearly 57 percent of his passes for 1,372 yards, six touchdowns.
But at other times, he's been so inconsistent that Kelly couldn't take it anymore. Golson has contributed his share of Notre Dame's 15 fumbles and also thrown four interceptions.
“He's a freshman,” Kelly said. “I'm reminded of it every single day.”
In last week's triple overtime win over Pittsburgh, Golson started the game, and as is the weekly custom, was benched when he played poor. However, unlike earlier games, Kelly went back to Golson later in the game and gave him the opportunity to redeem himself. And he did.
Following the game, Kelly was so impressed with Golson's resolve that he awarded the game ball to him, and then the third-year coach praised his quarterback in the post-game news conference.
“That spurred my comment, his ability to get back up off the bench,” Kelly said. “And it never happened before. He hadn't been in that situation where I felt like when I looked at him he was ready to get back in there. He was ready to get back in the game and knew what he needed to do.
So my comments after the game were based upon how he reacted to coming back in the game. Now you've got a little bit of history and said, All right, we got a rough spot here. Let's fight through this. You've done this before. So my comments were based upon that.”
Golson not only showed the toughness needed to bounce back, but he also showed the growth in managing the offense that Kelly wanted to see.
“Those are the things that he's been able to learn just in terms of his own management, his housekeeping, if you will, of getting up there, getting the play, communicating it,” Kelly explained. “Much more comfortable getting the signaling I think we talked about earlier in the year where we were worried about getting the signals. Now he's a lot more comfortable with the signaling, the communication, and that's really got him to speed up the process.”
Kelly said on Thursday that he wasn't entirely pleased with where his offense is in operating in the red zone (46 percent touchdown rate), and that is an area of emphasis for not only Golson, but the entire Notre Dame offense.
“You know, it's harder to stretch vertically, so obviously you have tighter throws; you have to be more accurate; you have to have precision,” Kelly said. “It's not a word that's thrown around very easily in our room right now. Precision is not what we have yet. You have to be so precise. I've had quarterbacks that were precise, could read things quickly, and then it was easy down there. It was just, you know, shooting fish in a barrel. We're not there yet.
Getting to that precision in that area is the progress that we have to make.”