Notre Dame’s Everett Golson battling concussion, fumbling issues
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 4:36PM
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08: Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs around end to try to score a touchdwon against the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Big Number
Oponents are scoring touchdowns on just 12.5 percent of their red zone trips against Notre Dame, the lowest in the nation.
A handful of Notre Dame players are Mormons, including Manti Te’o (who was recruited by BYU). “I know it’s talked about a little bit,” Brian Kelly said. “Manti’s family’s in town, Kona Schwenke’s family’s in town, and Robby Toma’s family. Chris Badger, LDS, too. There’s been some conversation, but I don’t know if that card’s really going to be played in terms of more motivation. I think they’re motivated about getting better as a football team.”
Updated: November 18, 2012 7:01AM
SOUTH BEND — Everett Golson’s first priority is to fully recover from the concussion he suffered Saturday.
His second priority?
Hold on to the darn ball.
Golson, fifth-ranked Notre Dame’s redshirt freshman quarterback, is no longer symptomatic and passed his balance test, but he failed his cognitive test on Monday and was scheduled to take it again Tuesday. Irish coach Brian Kelly expected him to be available by Wednesday’s practice, and said even if he had to sit out until Thursday, Golson still would get the start against BYU at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.
When he does return to the practice field, Golson can expect to hear a lot about his ball-protection skills. Golson fumbled four times in Saturday’s win over Stanford — losing three of them, including one in the end zone for the Cardinal’s only touchdown. He also fumbled out of bounds against Miami, and lost control of the ball while lunging for the end zone (replays showed he was down and the fumble was overturned).
Kelly’s No. 1 priority entering the season was cutting back on the turnovers that doomed his team to mediocrity last season. Yet he said Tuesday that Golson’s job is not in jeopardy.
“I think he understands that’s what he has to get better at — taking care of the football,” Kelly said. “We don’t talk in terms of, ‘Hey if you don’t do this, we’re going nto take you out of the game.’ He knows how important it is to take care of the football.”
Golson’s fumbling issues have coincided with an increase in designed runs for the dual-threat quarterback. In the first four games, he fumbled just twice — both against Purdue — and lost just one. But in the last two games, he’s played fast and loose with the football.
He fumbled a snap, ending Notre Dame’s first drive at midfield. He and Theo Riddick bumbled a third-down handoff in the second quarter, forcing the Irish to punt. Then came the fumble in the end zone, when Golson took too long to get rid of the ball — though Kelly admitted he put Golson in a bad situation by having him throw.
And in the third quarter, Golson ran for a 20-yard gain to the Stanford 17, but instead of safely stepping out of bounds, he ran right into Stanford cornerback Alex Carter, who forced a fumble the Cardinal recovered.
“There are certain times he’s going to carry the ball with one hand, and we understand that,” Kelly said. “But he’s got to feel pressure, he’s got to understand covering the football, he’s got to understand when to get down.
“He understands how important it is and we’re going to continue to make sure we hold him accountable.”
But Kelly has seen enough progress from Golson to keep him atop the depth chart. With fans calling for Tommy Rees to enter the game, Golson rebounded nicely in the second half before being knocked out. Kelly said the last four plays he made were the best four he made, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert down the sideline, and a fluttering 14-yarder to T.J. Jones with pressure in his face.
The touchdown was particularly encouraging, Kelly said.
“Tyler Eifert was the only one who was going to be able to catch the ball,” Kelly said. “I want to make sure it’s clear that that’s something he’s worked hard on developing. He would have not made that throw in Week 1 or Week 2. He would have thrown a line drive … and it would have been either deflected by the corner or Tyler would not have got his hands on it.”
If Golson has a setback this week and isn’t cleared by the medical staff, Rees will get the start, with Andrew Hendrix seeing action as a change-of-pace, running quarterback. But despite the fumbles and the rookie mistakes, and despite the ever-increasing stakes as Notre Dame rises up the polls, Kelly’s sticking with Golson.
“That learning curve is taking place series by series,” Kelly said. “That’s the value and the benefit of him playing this year, with four seasons of competition (left).
“I know there are (issues) — he’s got to take care of the football, he’s got to set his feet, he plays sloppy at times — but, boy, he competed his butt off. I couldn’t be more proud of a guy, the way he competed.”