Notre Dame opened the BCS sweepstakes in the No. 5 position, and I can think of no other number that better symbolizes the fortunes of the 2012 Fighting Irish. For by the time the bowl season has come and gone, it will be the team’s two No. 5‘s who will largely determine its fate.
One No. 5 leads the Irish offense, the other the Notre Dame defense, but this seems to be where the similarities end. For whereas Manti Te’o (coincidentally also ranked fifth in the Heisman watch by some experts, including the Washington Examiner’s Jeffrey Tomik) is the definition of steadiness, Everett Golson is the poster boy of erratic, whose Jekyll and Hyde performances make many experts wonder if this No. 5 should even start.
In other words, while most Irish fans can’t imagine Notre Dame winning a national title without Te’o (who after the Stanford game was voted the Lott Impact Player of the Week for the third time this season), many can’t imagine them winning it with Golson starting.
Thrice has the earnest, but less athletically gifted quarterback, Tommy Rees, relieved the starter Golson to win games, and three times No. 11 has been told that No. 5 is still the starting quarterback. Because, while any fool can tell you the Irish must start Te’o, there’s only one opinion that matters when it’s time to go with Golson.
“What I was really proud of,” said Golson’s biggest backer, Coach Brian Kelly, “and I hope you’ll take notice of this, Everett hit a point [against Stanford] where his dauber was down a little bit; his confidence was a bit shaken.
“And he came back with a great drive and did some really good things,” Kelly continued. “I was really proud of the way he overcame a little bit of adversity during the game… [Golson] fought through that and he made a big step today…He helped us win this football game.”
A “little” bit of adversity? Golson was responsible for three fumbles, including one in the Irish end zone that cost the team seven points, and nearly cost them the game. Still, as Kelly noted, Golson did come back to play well and led the Irish on a touchdown drive, and did not leave the Stanford game because of a boneheaded play, but rather because of a concussion he received on another dashing-but-dangerous run.
And so, as we enter the second half of the season, perhaps the Irish fans should “look on bright side” as the “Life of Brian” (Kelly) tells us. Perhaps we can keep winning with two quarterbacks. Perhaps, as Kelly suggests in his baseball analogy, Rees is more suited to the role of “relief pitcher,” Golson the starting pitcher with stuff so wild but good he could throw a no-hitter—or leave the game by the third inning—on any given day.
Plus you still have that great Te’o led, no-rushing-touchdowns-allowed Irish defense to back you up.
And so, going into the second half of the season with the unpredictable Golson still at the helm, about the only thing an Irish prognosticator can predict is that one of Notre Dame’s number 5‘s will change. Either Golson will mature as Te’o once did, and the Irish ranking will go up, or the quirky QB will continue to produce too many miscues and the Irish ranking will go down.
I would tell you not to hold your breath, but with Golson poised to heave another high-risk pass, or finish another head-on run, I’m afraid there’s no other way.