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Owens: Two quarterbacks are better than one for Irish (Oct. 8)

Andrew Owens | Monday, October 8, 2012

CHICAGO – The old adage says if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.

But, in Notre Dame’s case in 2012, two quarterbacks can be managed efficiently to provide the Irish one complete quarterback.

No, this isn’t Orwellian math or any kind of fuzzy math. For Notre Dame, it’s the recipe for success, which looks more and more like a BCS berth with each passing week.

Not all quarterbacks are created equal. Any Irish fan can attest to that. Tommy Rees is the yin to Everett Golson’s yang. Rees lacks Golson’s athleticism, but Rees has more experience in high-pressure situations and, at this point, can better manage a game.

In Notre Dame’s 41-3 mangling of Miami at Soldier Field on Saturday, Golson gave everyone a glimpse of the potential Irish coach Brian Kelly has alluded to when speaking about his dual-threat quarterback.

He can run. He can pass. He can dazzle.

Boy, can he dazzle.

Golson completed all six pass attempts in the first quarter and engineered a drive at the end of the first half on which he was 4-of-4 and moved the chains on each play before sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza’s missed field goal attempt to end the half. In his 15-of-20 first half, Golson distributed the ball to eight different receivers, clearly showing his patience with reads and progressions.

His breakout performance was rooted in the emergence of his running ability, a trait used sparingly during September. The wrinkle just might’ve caught the Hurricanes off-guard.

“We really took a hard look at where we were offensively and knew we had to open up the offense formationally, as well as the zone read game, which obviously helps us quite a bit,” Kelly said.

In a game Notre Dame didn’t put away until the third quarter, the most telling aspect of the sophomore’s play was his ability to avoid the mistakes that led to his benching against Michigan.

When Golson struggles again – and he will – it’s nice to have a 17-game starter in your back pocket.

But the junior certainly has his flaws. It’s the reason Rees lost his starting job to begin with.

You won’t find a bigger Tommy Rees critic than yours truly, but, in the right spots, he gives Notre Dame the best chance to win. He reached his physical peak a long time ago and his play cost Notre Dame dearly at times in 2011.

But with a defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in a month and a potent rushing attack, the Irish don’t need a Geno Smith. A Craig Krenzel will do just fine and Rees can be exactly that.

He can manage the game and be the steady road to Golson’s peaks and valleys. When the Irish find themselves in a defensive slugfest, a la Michigan two weeks ago, Rees is simply the best option.

Heading into 2012 with a brutal schedule and questions at several positions, it looked like the season would be a learning experience for the squad. Most pundits thought Notre Dame would have a couple losses before the calendar turned to October, and that scenario would’ve enabled Kelly to be much more patient with Golson by using a long-term approach.

But Notre Dame is 5-0. What was once considered a pipe dream is a distinct possibility: the Irish in a BCS bowl.

Each week matters. Each snap matters.

Kelly knows he can’t afford to think about 2013 and 2014 when a golden opportunity exists in 2012. To his credit, he had the short-term vision from the beginning and has managed the quarterback situation beautifully – even when Golson was pulled against Purdue.

Kelly has two quarterbacks and one gargantuan opportunity.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.