ND’s Golson plays ‘like a veteran’ in victory over Navy
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or email@example.com September 1, 2012 4:38PM
Notre Dame's Theo Riddick, right, reacts with Louis Nix III after scoring a touchdown against the Navy's during their NCAA college football game in Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Updated: September 1, 2012 7:51PM
DUBLIN, Ireland — It was too casual a throw — ill-advised into heavy coverage — and like so many other Notre Dame plays in the last 12 months, it resulted in a turnover.
But when Everett Golson returned to the sideline after his first interception as a college quarterback, early in the second quarter of Notre Dame’s 50-10 trouncing of an overmatched Navy squad at Dublin’s festive Aviva Stadium, he wasn’t greeted by a red-faced tirade from coach Brian Kelly. Golson didn’t sulk, he didn’t get angry and he didn’t get the hook, either.
He went back to the sideline, and he went back to work.
“There were a lot of worries in terms of him getting overexcited, but he has this poise about him,” said senior running back Theo Riddick, who ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, making a case to remain the starter when suspended Cierre Wood comes back in Week 3. “You saw it today. He was very calm. He made a mistake early and came right back as if it never happened. That’s something you want in your QB.”
Or, as tackle Zack Martin put it: “He played like a veteran today.”
Of course, it helps to be up 20-0 at the time of the turnover. It helps to have an offensive line manhandling the Navy front four, opening up huge holes for a rushing game that piled up 293 yards at a 6.4-yards-per-carry clip. It helps to have a disciplined defense that largely contained Navy’s triple option before the Midshipmen opened up the passing game just before halftime.
Golson finished 12-of-18 for 144 yards, one touchdown — a stop fade to Tyler Eifert — and the one pick before giving way to Andrew Hendrix. Golson threw mostly safe, short passes — a slick 35-yarder down the sideline to DaVaris Daniels was one exception — and looked in command of the offense.
It was an encouraging performance for a redshirt freshman making his debut. But what was more encouraging for the Irish was how that was all they needed out of Golson. He simply managed the game, minimized mistakes — holding on to the football while getting blindsided by Navy linebacker Keegan Wetzel, for example — and let a veteran line and talented backfield do most of the work.
“It was what we thought,” Kelly said. “We felt the strength of our football team lay up front. And we believe we have physical backs with home-run ability.”
That helped Golson maintain that even keel he’s been talking about throughout training camp.
“I think I was comfortable,” Golson said. “Part of that is due to the coaches. Coming into this game, the main thing was everybody is going to make mistakes, but you just have to relax. You’re going to make mistakes, but make them going full speed.”
Full speed like George Atkinson (nine carries for 99 yards) finding a huge hole and blazing 56 yards for a first-quarter touchdown. Full speed like Manti Te’o running to the sideline to celebrate after the first fumble recovery of his illustrious career (he added his first interception later on). And full speed like 6-foot-6, 303-pound defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, picking up a fumble forced by Ishaq Williams on a sack of Navy quarterback Trey Miller late in the first half, and racing 77 yards for a touchdown — outrunning receivers and running backs in the process.
“I had my eyes closed the whole time,” Tuitt said.
Add it up, and suddenly this whole cumbersome business trip to Ireland started to feel like a vacation, after all.
Especially compared with last year’s opener — a 23-20 loss to South Florida in which the Irish gave the ball away three times and quarterback Dayne Crist lost his job at halftime.
“I think it’s a real coming-out for our team,” Riddick said. “We’ve struggled the first game in the past years, but today we did very well. ... We didn’t play a perfect game, but we played a good enough game to get 50 points.”
It’s only one game, and it came against what might be the easiest opponent Notre Dame will face. But compared with last year’s opening debacle, in terms of the team’s level of confidence and excitement heading into Week 2, it made a world of difference, half a world away.