Eye in the Sky: Golson and his Targets

Our first film review from Saturday's matchup against Rice examines Notre Dame's top player, Everett Golson, and his host of pass targets in a 48-17 Irish victory.

Golson hits pay dirt

His five touchdowns produced represented the official game story, but Golson's most impressive singular play of the day was an NFL-worty throw that bounced incomplete: 45 yards in the air, across the hash marks, off the hands of speed demon sophomore Will Fuller near the end of the half (Notre Dame scored one snap later on a bomb to C.J. Prosise.).

Fuller gave Golson little room to put the pigskin in position, running his route too close to the right sideline, but the Irish quarterback did just that, and it should have been a deep completion at minimum, potentially a 53-yard touchdown.

Golson's five touchdowns included a little of everything:

-- Out of the shotgun with RB Greg Bryant offset to his right, Golson takes a designed QB draw over left tackle for an 11-yard score. Left guard Conor Hanratty secured his block while left tackle Ronnie Stanley got just enough of his assignment, losing his balance thereafter or he'd have produced an easy running lane for Golson.

Regardless, Golson picked his way over the vacated left side and thanks to a Ben Koyack block from the slot, scored easily. Koyack dominated his assigned defender more than 10 yards downfield into the end zone. (Bryant preceded Golson through the hole and never found anyone to block, though he didn't miss, either.)

-- Touchdown No. 2 occurred from the Pistol formation, with Golson using play-action to RB Cam McDaniel, then safe-tossing a post pass to a wide open Fuller, 58 yards in the air for a touchdown. Golson intentionally under threw Fuller who had 10 yards of separation from his defender. Nice job by Fuller to spin out of a tackle attempt -- the defender closed as Fuller waited on the pass. Quick spin move, tackle evaded, and six points on the board.

-- Golson's third score came courtesy his quick feet, but also showcased his development as a pocket quarterback. Facing 3rd and 8 and a Drop 8 (three-man rush) defense from the Owls' 14-yard line, Golson delayed breaking from the pocket to allow Rice defenders to lock onto their assigned zones and receivers.

After the middle vacated briefly due to a crossing route in front of him, Golson put his foot in the ground and sprinted past the 10-yard line -- a quick cut froze one potential tackler to his right, then a the Irish MVP dove from the three-yard line, extending his arm for the score. (The dive was reminiscent of Golson's game-tying two-point conversion against Pittsburgh in 2012.)

-- The fourth touchdown was his most spectacular, a scramble left, followed by a remarkable 62 yards-in-the-air strike to C.J. Prosise. Prosise had suffered a middle school-level drop of what would have been a 55-yard touchdown earlier in the quarter -- redemption rarely comes in the same game for a young target, but Golson's athletic ability provided it.

-- Golson's fifth score was accidental, not to mention comical -- a missed handoff to Greg Bryant left the Irish QB frozen for a full second in the pocket before he skated over a (confused) left side for the cosmetic score. Miscommunication inside the five-yard line won't fly this week vs. the Wolverines.

A Closer Look

Film notes on the Irish passing attack include:

-- Poor decision by Golson on an early zone-read handoff to Cam McDaniel. The quarterback should have kept possession and broken to the vacated right. McDaniel lost yardage into boundary traffic to the left and the Irish were forced to punt…

-- On the second possession, Golson bailed too early on 3rd and 4, he had a nice pocket formed but looked to escape left and ND was forced into its second punt after no gain…

-- A 3rd and 3 conversion courtesy an old San Francisco 49ers/Bill Walsh special -- a swing pass out to tight end Ben Koyack, who lined up as an offset fullback. Koyack broke wide open across scrimmage as Golson rolled with him to the right. Well-designed…

-- Quick hitch to Koyack, a touch high and behind him but easily secured by the tight end. Slight accuracy issue there as Golson worked his way back into top form…

-- What a beautiful strike to a single-covered Corey Robinson down the post -- pitch and catch between Golson and his 6'5" target, and with a and good pocket formed around the passer…

-- Koyack didn't turn quickly enough (he was open for a first down) but it was still a poor throw by Golson, one of just two on the day. This 3rd and 2 designed roll right should have been picked and could have been returned for a score…

-- Golson scrambled out of immediate trouble (it appeared Stanley was late coming across scrimmage in what would have been a moving pocket, or perhaps RB Tarean Folston missed his blitz pickup assignment). Regardless, Golson turned a broken play into six yards, making the initial tackler miss in space…

-- Incredible throw by Golson on a scramble to his right. 57 yards in the air and directly off the chest of Prosise. Still can't believe he dropped that...

-- Nice catch by slot receiver Amir Carlisle down the left seam. A perfect pass, well-contested by the defender and secured by Carlisle. Welcome to the position, Amir -- that in no way resembled a RB masquerading as a slot...

-- Good upfield speed by Chris Brown after collecting a bubble screen on the left sideline. More important, a nice block by Koyack in front of him. Look for Koyack to try to slip open down the sideline next week from this formation -- when a 6'5" 255-pound tight end lines up along side a fleet-footed receiver, is logical to assume a lead block is on tap: Koyack can take advantage of that natural alignment and make a play...

-- Golson's second poor pass was a bubble screen thrown way-too-high to Fuller on the right side. This wasn't a case of Golson being lazy in his technique, he just rushed it...

--The first empty set I can remember on the day results in a throwaway by Golson into the red zone. Remember Coach Kelly, when you line up empty, you often come up empty, even with a mobile QB…

-- Incredible extension by Golson on his aforementioned touchdown to Prosise, rolling left, taking the hit, throwing a strike. 62 yards in the air. Wow…

- Golson again created a first down vs. Drop 8 coverage -- patience looking downfield, then a quick jaunt for eight yards to the left sidelines when it was apparent the coverage was solid…

-- Fuller shows a nice burst on a bubble screen. Both he and Brown really hit full speed quickly on that "extended handoff" pass completion to the sidelines…

-- Easy Golson to Brown on a third down out-route for 8 yards to move the chains…

-- Thought Golson could have kept it and broken left. Instead, a zone read handoff over the right boundary limited McDaniel to two yards…

-- Concentration drop by Ben Koyack on a perfectly thrown skinny post. Everybody is allowed one -- in September.

-- Beautifully designed moving pocket play ends with Golson zipping it into Carlisle on a corner route left. Golson looked great rolling left and throwing Saturday-- we already know he can roll right and fire with the best of them (ahem, Michigan State, 2012). Carlisle ran at least two nice routes Saturday -- I'll keep an eye on him and his position mates from the press box this week.

-- Set in-line, Koyack breaks down the left seam and with the aid of play-action from the Pistol formation, it's an easy 28 yards. That's offensive football at its finest. Golson was a touch late and/or careful on the throw or Koyack might have scored...

_ Golson's sprint left to boundary from the Owls' 4-yard line came up with empty, but that formation might be setting up misdirection for Michigan, Stanford, or Florida State down the line. He had little chance of getting in…

Quick Thoughts on the Targets

-- Getting Brown involved with a late-2nd Quarter bubble screen was great game management by Kelly. Remember, Brown is merely a de facto No. 1 -- he needs confidence, too…

-- Will Fuller will run past every defense this season. I'd wager he's faster than Brown on a football field -- and if he's not, look out...

-- Prosise's drop should be out of his mind at this point. It was crucial he secured his ensuing score for his Week Two confidence level. It's also good that Carlisle wasn't the victim of that miscue, if you catch my drift…

-- The Irish need a fully functioning Corey Robinson this week against Michigan. Unfortunately, it's safe to assume his hand will carry a soft cast through the Sept. 20 bye week. Koyack and Carlisle will need to pick up his slack in the interim…

-- Downfield talent abounds, but is there a 3rd-and-5 target available for Golson if suspended senior DaVaris Daniels doesn't return? At this point, it has to be Koyack -- and he seems an easier cover than were the last five starting tight ends in South Bend…

-- Did you see #11 Justin Brent execute a block on Malik Zaire's 58-yard run in the fourth quarter? The true freshman came from the opposite hash, across traffic to provide Zaire his cut-back lane…

-- Look for more passes targeting Irish running backs Saturday against the team from up north.

Note: Next among our Rice film reviews: The Irish offensive line and running backs.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories