Comfort Zone

Kelly discusses Golson's newfound trust in the pocket, his self-assessments following errors, and the season's intermittent additions to the triggerman's repertoire.

He's only thrown five of them, but Irish quarterback Everett Golson's 2012 interceptions have largely occurred where his head coach -- and any head coach -- dreads such errors the most.

In the red zone vs. Navy. Deep in his own end, then in the end zone vs. Michigan. In the end zone vs. Pittsburgh. In the end zone vs. Wake Forest.

Even at his best Saturday, the redshirt-freshman repeated the worst mistake a quarterback can make.

"I think the interception he threw-- because we were at a point where it was pretty clear that Wake Forest was having difficulty stopping us. For us to give the ball up, those are the foolish and careless mistakes that he made earlier in the year," said Brian Kelly of the lone blemish during Golson's otherwise sterling performance.

"But he's so much further along that those are ones that he comes to the sideline and says something before you say something to him, and then you know he's on that right trend in terms of understanding."

Kelly believes Golson understands right from wrong on the field because of the scars he's incurred this fall, his first under fire.

"The nine games that he started, winning on the road, having to come in and lead our football team to a win against Pittsburgh, all of those things go into Saturday," said Kelly. "All those will be positives for him going into the USC game."

Always willing and able; now ready

Rushing yards vs. Navy: minus 8. Rushing yards vs. Purdue: minus 10. Combined rushing yards vs. Michigan State and Michigan: 7

Rushing yards in Everett Golson's five starts that followed? 269

There's little doubt Notre Dame's offense has improved in its ability to score, to sustain drives, and to convert in various third down distances. Golson's ability to move -- and to move and throw -- has been instrumental.

"We just weren't ready to put him in a running situation," said Kelly of Golson's consistent pocket presence in September. "He still needs another coat of armor on him. He needs another year in the weight room and needs to get thicker.  We need to be judicious in when we run him, (but) we have to run him.

"Look, he's better when he runs. He's better physically and mentally. He loves to run and get out there. We've been more judicious, (and) need to run him more. Obviously we'd like to get him stronger, too, as we continue to build towards that."

Golson leads the Irish with 16 chain-moving carries on third down, tied for first on the team with lead running back Theo Riddick. Golson has added 28 rushes resulting in first downs on first and second down as well. That rushing prowess allowed for another wrinkle to re-appear in the rushing attack Saturday vs. the Demon Deacons: a sprint-option to the wide side of the field, one Golson deftly flipped to running back Cierre Wood for what became an untouched 68-yard touchdown run.

"He can do it behind his back, and I'm not kidding," said Kelly of Golson's pitching acumen. "He was a point guard in high school and could distribute the ball. Great passer of the basketball. (The football) comes out effortlessly and without much thought."

Its unlikely Irish fans will see a Cousy-esque behind-the-back pitch from Golson anytime soon, but perfectly placed passes have already become commonplace thanks to adherence to fundamentals -- not to mention a little trust in his friends.

"Look, when you drop back and you know you're protected now, that's a big difference," said Kelly of Golson's ability to recognize and adjust to pre-snap defensive pressure. "When you drop back and you don't know where it's coming from, it's hard to set your feet, hard to get your eyes on your progression. Hard to do all those things.

"But when you take your drop and you know (the tackle or tight end) is protecting my left side and I've got this picked up on my front, I can throw hot, the quarterback play is gonna tend to elevate itself."

Since sitting out the Brigham Young matchup due to a concussion suffered one week prior vs. Stanford, Golson has hit for seven touchdown passes (vs. two interceptions) while completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 950 yards. In that span, Golson has been sacked just twice, has not lost a fumble, and has added 177 rushing yards with three scores. Top Stories