The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are once again relevant on a national stage. At 6-0, the Irish are now ranked fifth in the nation and national title aspirations are a real possibility. There aren’t too many teams in this position that would be dealing with a quarterback controversy, and the Irish shouldn’t be either. Tommy Rees should be starting from here on in.
Everett Golson, the redshirt freshman, has started every game except for the Irish’s victory over the Miami Hurricanes, when he was benched for the first series for disciplinary reasons. Golson is arguably the more athletic of the two, but has struggled with regularity throughout the season. He has only completed 58.5% of his passes and is averaging just 161.3 passing yards per contest.
To make matters worse for Golson, Rees has come on in relief three times this season for the Irish to lead them to victories, which accounts for 50% of the Irish wins this year. Rees came on against the Purdue Boilermakers last month and led Notre Dame to a dramatic last second win. Then, two weeks later he was summoned off the bench against the Michigan Wolverines and went 8-of-11 passing to help the Irish secure a 13-6 triumph. Finally, Rees came in late Saturday against the Stanford Cardinal and made several critical throws to keep Notre Dame undefeated.
Forget for a minute Golson’s struggles throwing the ball, it’s his turnovers that are far more costly. In the aforementioned game against the Boilermakers, he had a late fumble in Irish territory that allowed Purdue to tie the game. Against Michigan he had two picks and just three completions in his first eight passes. Saturday against Stanford he fumbled four times and one of which was in his own end zone that was recovered for a Cardinal touchdown.
There was another fumble on Saturday, however, that showed why Golson needs to give way to Rees. Late in the game Golson broke a big run deep into Stanford territory when the Irish were trailing. After being forced to the sideline, instead of stepping out and protecting the ball, Golson cut back in and took a massive hit which subsequently caused him to lose a fumble. This took points off the board as the Irish were in field goal range, and Golson took a big unnecessary hit in the process.
Notre Dame, led by linebacker Manti Te’o, has one of the best defenses in the nation. They are only giving up eight points a game, which ranks second in the entire country. Many football pundits hate the term “managing the game” when it comes to quarterbacking, but in this case that’s what the Irish need to do. If they just cut out the turnovers and make a few throws when they need to, their defense is going to win them a lot of games.
If Notre Dame can win out they have a real shot at playing for the national title, and Rees gives them the best opportunity to do just that. The Irish have had some narrow escapes so far this year thanks to some careless play from Golson. They can’t keeping dodging the bullet forever.
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