When it comes to football, the most popular player on the team in the fans eyes just may be the backup quarterback. Coming off the bench into the game to rally your team to a victory leaves a lasting impression. At least it did last week in South Bend.
Coach Brian Kelly summoned Tommy Rees for Notre Dame’s final drive of last week’s victory over the Purdue Boilermakers, and he led them to a game winning field goal. Rees came on for starter Everett Golson who suffered a minor thumb injury on the previous drive. Minor thumb injury may have been code for “he just turned the ball over deep in our own end allowing the Boilermakers to tie the score at 17, so were taking him out.”
Although Golson’s fumble was costly, he has played well in Notre Dame’s first two games. Against Purdue he went 21-0f-31 for 289 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. He is a much better athlete than Rees which gives the Irish more options in the running game. Not to mention he still has four years of eligibility left for Notre Dame to develop him.
Rees on the other hand is much more experienced. He started 16 of the past 17 games coming into this season and he knows the Irish offense well, which he proved on that final drive against the Boilermakers. His throws were right on the money and he made every correct read, marching the Irish into field goal range. Nothing gives a head coach more confidence than an accurate quarterback.
So the question must be asked, can Notre Dame do the same thing in the coming weeks? Just use Golson for most of the game because of his athleticism and to give the Irish a chance to win. Then bring in Rees late to close things out due to his experience in pressure situations.
While this sounds good on paper, history dictates rotating quarterbacks rarely works and when it does, it won’t last long. It won’t help a young quarterback like Golson to always be looking over his shoulder. He may start to get very conservative in the hopes of avoiding a mistake that gets him yanked from the game. Also, how is he going to prove he can excel late in a close game if he never gets the chance?
As far as Rees goes, it’s going to be hard to consistently come in cold off the bench and close out games. Most quarterbacks play off rhythm and it will be tough to generate any sitting on the bench for 55 minutes.
The games are only going to get tougher for the Irish as they still have to play the Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Oklahoma Sooners, and USC Trojans. Since they are already ranked in the top 25, if they can finish the season with just one or two losses on that type of a schedule, they have a real shot at a BCS bowl. It’s hard to envision that happening to a team that has a quarterback carousel.