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Football: Golson geared to go

Matthew DeFranks | Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For the fourth consecutive week, the No. 5 Irish will have a different starting quarterback than the week before when sophomore Everett Golson takes the field for Notre Dame’s showdown at No. 8 Oklahoma.

Golson passed a cardio test Monday and Irish coach Brian Kelly named him the starter for the game against the Sooners (5-1).

“We wanted to do that more because he hadn’t had really the opportunity to get out there and run, and we didn’t want to wait until Saturday where he’s out there and we have some setbacks,” Kelly said. “He’s good and 100 percent, and he’ll start for us against Oklahoma on Saturday.”

The sophomore signal caller missed Notre Dame’s 17-14 win over BYU with a concussion sustained during the Stanford game a week earlier. He was cleared to practice last Wednesday but Kelly elected to start junior Tommy Rees against BYU instead. Golson did not play.

Golson has thrown for 968 passing yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards and two scores.

The Sooners also employ a two-quarterback system, but in a much different way than the Irish (7-0) do.

Senior Landry Jones is Oklahoma’s clear-cut starter while sophomore Blake Bell adds a running dimension to the position. The Sooners have installed special “Belldozer” goal-line packages for Bell, who has eight rushing touchdowns on the season.

“If it’s first and goal from the five, we’re going to have a hard time keeping them out of the end zone,” Kelly said. “If he’s on the field, we’re going to have to do something really extraordinary, because he’s a tough guy to stop.”

Oklahoma’s offense has started to click following a 24-19 loss to then-No. 15 Kansas State, averaging 52 points in its last three games, including a 63-point outburst in a win over Texas.

“I think there’s a confidence level,” Kelly said. “You can see it in the receivers, the quarterback, and Landry has been very effective and efficient with the football. [They] made big plays. They’re balancing their running game in there. Certainly their offense has evolved since the first week against UTEP to where they are today.”

Jones, who will be making his 44th career start, has passed for 1,644 yards and 12 touchdowns with three interceptions. He has not been held to fewer than 222 passing yards in a game this season.

“He’s gotten into a good rhythm,” Kelly said. “He hasn’t been disrupted very much. And I think, like most good quarterbacks, if you can get into a good rhythm and you’re not disrupted, you’re going to be pretty effective. You can see that’s been the case.”

Miami was the only team to pass for more than 200 yards against the Irish when they tossed for 201 yards Oct. 6.
The Sooners have been able to stretch the field against their opponents, racking up eight pass plays of 30 or more yards.
“We’re quite aware of their ability to get vertical,” Kelly said. “And we take great pride in our ability to minimize those big plays. We’re going to have to do that again on Saturday if we expect to win. If they can throw the ball over our head, it puts us in a very difficult situation defensively.”

Saturday’s game marks the first time since the Irish played USC in 2006 that top-10 Notre Dame will face a fellow top-10 opponent.

“This is why you coach at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “This is why you coach at those programs that get the opportunity to play in marquee games. There’s an excitement but there’s also a realization that that excitement only gets you so far. You’ve got to prepare well. You’ve got to be detailed and organized. And so in times like these, we get that. That’s why we want to be here at Notre Dame.”

Oklahoma has been dominant at home since Sooners coach Bob Stoops took over in 1999. The Sooners are 79-4 at home during that span, including 14-1 in Norman against ranked opponents.

“That’s where we want to be,” Kelly said. “I mean, we want that consistency. Year in and year out you know Oklahoma is going to be part of the conversation. And that’s where we want to get our football program. We’re nowhere near that yet. We think we’re moving in the right direction. We’re trending the right way.”

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu