A New Dimension

Notre Dame unleashed the next phase of its 2012 offense Saturday night in Chicago. It should pay dividends against a trying October slate.

Opportunity has officially knocked in South Bend. A 5-0 start has placed the Irish firmly inside the nation's top 10, and though its easy to poke holes in the team's candidacy, a development in Saturday night's evisceration of Miami suggests the squad's September performance won't represent the 2012 team's ceiling:

Everett Golson is a dual threat.

"He doesn't have to run every down, but when we're trying to block effectively and we've got to leave a guy unblocked, he's got to be able to make the right reads and take it or give it out given what he sees," said head coach Brian Kelly of Golson's initial immersion into the Irish rushing attack.

"So this is a disciplined approach to everything that we do. Not only in the passing game, not only in the management of the game, but also in the running game. I personally thought that once we got him running a little bit, he seemed a whole lot more comfortable in the game, and I would think that we'd consider continuing that route moving forward."

Prior to Saturday night's read-option keeper, Golson's only rushing attempts had been the result of scrambles, two of which resulted in crucial touchdowns vs. Purdue (a dive to the pylon) and Michigan State (a sprint to the near corner).

Never a "running quarterback," Golson is quicker than fast (as in ridiculously quick and garden-variety fast) and not yet blessed with a sturdy frame. He won't be a runner, he'll be an option.

"I'm not going to put our quarterback in a position, especially him -- he's not a big, thick, physical guy like Andrew Hendrix who is 230 pounds," said Kelly. "We're not going to run him in a fashion where we're going to grind him out and put him in a position where he can't utilize his strengths. We'll pick our spots and make sure that he's one-on-one when it comes to some of the running opportunities that he has.

Among Golson's 51 rushing yards and six carries were read-option keepers that gained 12, 9, 9 and 4 (on 2nd and 1) yards. He added an electric 15-yard scramble during which he froze would-be-tacklers in space after escaping pocket pressure.

Another issue delaying Golson's progress in the team's rushing attack was ball security.

Just didn't like the way he carried the ball, exposed the ball a lot in practice, wasn't comfortable given the fact that we have to be very, very conscious of turnovers," said Kelly. He's protected the ball better, though he did put the ball on the ground twice (one bounced out of bounds, one ruled down). That was probably our biggest concern of running him was that we didn't want the ball on the ground.

"We're working at it in practice. He's better at it. He's cognizant of it. He's aware of it. As he continues to protect it better each and every week in practice, we'll continue to run him more."

Practice has yet to make perfect, but its improvement during the week that allowed Kelly to trust Golson between the lines. Irish fans and media see only Saturday's results, but Kelly must make his decision based on a body of work as well.

"I think it started to show itself in the second week of preparation. I think his knowledge of Miami having plenty of time to prepare for them started to show itself on Thursday. Felt a lot more confident that he would be able to execute at a higher level than he had been previously.

"So I think just being with him every single day, we have days where we make progress, and days where we've got to come back and work on it a little bit harder. So I think this is going to be the case most of the year."

And not a moment too soon. Notre Dame's next two foes rank 6th (Stanford) and 1st (BYU) in rushing defense, respectively. The Cougars are 12th against the pass as well and have allowed just one more point per game, 8.8, than has Notre Dame.

October should prove more challenging than September, but a repeat performance by the Irish this month would place the program among the rarified air of national title contenders.

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