Golson: Unleashed

Back in action for the first time since a disheartening BCS Championship game loss, Notre Dame senior quarterback Everett Golson dominated against Rice -- he had, however, earned his coach's trust prior to Saturday's season opening victory.

Everett Golson made a triumphant return to Notre Dame Stadium Saturday. On display throughout his five touchdown, 336-yard afternoon was a rocket launcher disguised as a right arm, footwork that would make Astaire take notice, and the guts of a burglar.

Also evident on Saturday's main stage, and far more important as an indicator to his team's 12 ensuing contests: complete trust bestowed upon him by his head coach.

"We didn't want to over-coach him in that we were going to allow him today to get outside the pocket and be a football player, and just naturally go play the game," said Brian Kelly of his senior triggerman. "And I thought he did that today extraordinarily well...I think really showed the kind of player that he can be."

"Electric," was Kelly's apt description of Golson Saturday.

Entertaining. Difference-maker. Bearer of hope against long odds. They all apply.

Golson was outstanding. He however faced one of the two worst defenses he'll see over the arduous journey that will be 2014. More staying power in the pocket will be essential against athletic, peer defenses.

"I think there's areas where I could clean up, footwork and things like that," said Golson. "There were a couple throws where I stayed in there and made a throw. That's what's in my mind now, but I think just being more (focused) on timing..I was kind of getting out of the pocket and making plays and (scrambling) and things like that. Definitely (need) to get the timing down and be more precise."

In addition to four throws down the line of scrimmage and another completed short screen, Golson hit among his 14 completions three top-tier-QB-quality routes between the hash marks after setting his feet in the pocket. Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack, and Amir Carlisle, were the recipients of those gems while Chris Brown, Cam McDaniel, Will Fuller (TD), and C.J. Prosise (TD) also caught passes. There were three drops and three throwaways intermixed in his eight incompletions to open the season.

Get used to the distribution. There's no (eligible) go-to-guy in sight other than the player taking the snap from center.

"I don't think we are going to have one particular guy that's going to eat up all the catches," said Kelly. "I think that that's what you're going to see, is that the identity, if you will, of this team, is there's not one guy. It's going to spread all the way across the board. Everybody is going to get touches. You're going to have three running backs; you're going to a couple of tight ends; you're going to have four or five wide receivers all catching footballs for us.

"We have got guys that have speed," he continued. "We have got guys that can catch the football. Will Fuller is going to take the top off of any defensive secondary. He's got elite speed. "You've got Chris Brown who will catch the ball. Corey Robinson is a great matchup. They all have different skills but they all can help us in so many ways."

Golson noted in August that he, at times, couldn't tell the difference between the first three, second three, and third threesome of receiver groupings. "It's the same thing, right?" he mentioned in August of the unit's depth. "You can really spread the ball around with those guys."

It played out in the opener. So too did Golson's growth.

"Understanding his movement keys; understanding what he's looking at," said Kelly of Golson's evolution since 2012. "And when you start to understand defenses and your movement keys, you can start to rip the ball into areas where you're not normally throwing the football with that great deal of comfort. And you can see with the ball he threw to Corey (Robinson), he was the third receiver on that play, and that was a progression check that he normally, a few years ago, he would never have thrown."

Kelly likely wouldn't have let him. Saturday, the veteran head coach of nearly a quarter-century allowed his team to let it rip, collectively. He'll do that throughout 2014, but football acumen, as always, will enter the equation.

"I think we are going to have to bring our brains…we can't just run around," Kelly said. "We are going to have to be better mentally.

"Today was more of a message of: first game, let's not be out here and feeling our way through it. Let's go play. But no, we'll have to bring a complete game and that is attention to detail. We have to know our game plan. We can't make some of the mistakes that we made today.

"But we needed to get some confidence today and I think we got some confidence from our younger players that need to do a better job relative to communication."

This collection of Irish youth can take a cue from their senior leader, a player formerly more attracted to shortcuts than to attention or adherence to detail.

Regardless, playbook knowledge and the ability to diagnose a defense still occasionally take a back seat to Golson's greatest gift: the ability to create.

“He’s a playmaker, and if we protect him up front, he’s going to make plays," said senior center Nick Martin of Golson. "That’s our job. We just follow him, and I know I have to get in front of my man to give him as much time as possible.”

Time well spent for Irish fans. Still, the true test(s), await.

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