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DeFranks: Kelly needs to stick with Golson (Sept. 14)

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, September 13, 2012

Imagine this.

You just finished your one-year internship and received your first full-time job at the same company. Your boss continues to laud your development as the future of this company. In your second week on the job, you perform very well, even earning employee of the week honors. But your boss takes you off the project you had been working on and puts someone else on it at the last second.

How do you feel?

If I am sophomore quarterback Everett Golson after being yanked in the closing minutes of Notre Dame’s 20-17 win over Purdue on Saturday, I feel angry and frustrated, betrayed and abandoned. After all, Golson threw for 289 yards on 21-for-31 passing despite not having the benefit of a running game.

Junior quarterback Tommy Rees may have led the game-winning drive, but Golson led the Irish by a pesky Purdue team.
He rushed for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown and was one untimely fumble away from a near-perfect Notre Dame Stadium debut. He did everything asked of him, with the exception of his one turnover.

Maybe Golson was not quite ready to man the two-minute offense yet. But is there a better time to learn than a tied game in the fourth quarter of a home game? The Irish would not have lost if they didn’t score, they simply would have moved to overtime. There was no pressure on Golson for the final drive.

Irish coach Brian Kelly has repeatedly said he will be patient with Golson and that the young quarterback will make mistakes and that Golson still needs to learn a lot. But Kelly robbed him of a prime learning opportunity last week, instead trusting the offense to a signal caller who threw 14 interceptions a year ago.

Confidence is a very fragile thing in sports and Kelly has toyed with it several times over the past two seasons. First, it was Dayne Crist losing his job after one half of football. Then it was Rees looking over his shoulder after the Stanford game in 2011. Now, it will be Golson checking his rearview mirror.

This week, Golson will head into raucous Spartan Stadium in his first true road game for what should be another tight game between the rivals. If the Irish need a drive late in the game, who do they turn to?

Kelly has said throughout the week he wants his starter to finish the game as well but that nothing is off the table. Golson – and Rees – deserve better than that. Kelly must decide on one quarterback before he loses both of them. Golson still has three years of eligibility after this season and has all the physical tools needed to succeed at Notre Dame. He just needs the opportunity.

Two-quarterback systems simply do not work. The last one to succeed was at Florida and they had some guy named Tim Tebow. They have not been used by Alabama or USC or even Michigan State. So why should Kelly and the Irish implement one?

This is not baseball. There is no closer. Every game should be a complete game.

Kelly needs to trust that Golson can hit it out of the park.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.