Three takeaways from Rice
Mary Green | Sunday, August 31, 2014
Everett Golson is better than ever
This one is obvious – everyone was raving about the senior quarterback’s game (14-of-22, 295 yards passing) in his return to the Irish. It’s highly doubtful Golson would label his suspension as a blessing in disguise, but it’s clear he made the most of a bad situation during his absence.
While he relied on his legs to make a lot big plays in 2012, Golson used his arm just as much Saturday to move the chains and light up the scoreboard. He wasn’t afraid to fire down the field, launching six completions of more than 20 yards.
Even more than the gaudy numbers Golson posted – accounting for five of Notre Dame’s six touchdowns Saturday – is how steady and poised he looked, both in the pocket and on the run. He didn’t seem flustered or panicky in the face of pressure, and his passes were sharp, including the ones he threw away out of bounds.
The return game has improved – immensely
While Golson’s game was exciting, what really surprised Irish fans was the team’s return game. The past few seasons, it had been nonexistent, but it was present and in full force against Rice.
Brian Kelly said he had consulted NFL personnel to improve kick and punt returns, so he must’ve used their advice in practice and the playbook because Notre Dame looked like a different program on special teams, notching returns for 18, 24, 25 and 36 yards.
It wasn’t one particular player who stood out in the return game for the Irish, either. Amir Carlisle, Cody Riggs and Greg Bryant all contributed double-digit runs, which gave the team good field position to start those six touchdown drives.
Don’t panic about defensive miscues
Yes, the defense gave up big plays that it shouldn’t have. Yes, some of those plays led to Rice points.
But at the end of the game, Notre Dame still had the scoring advance, and by a lot – 48-17.
Safety Austin Collinsworth wasn’t able to play because of an MCL injury sustained Thursday. That gave backup Elijah Shumate only two days to prepare to be Saturday’s starter. Shumate should be able to step in at any moment as a key reserve, but nonetheless, he’s a player who’s seen action sparingly in his two previous seasons. It’s not an easy role to fill in for the leader of the secondary and a team captain on short notice.
Now the defensive backs will have a week to prepare and figure out their game play without Collinsworth. They’ll have a tougher task in containing Devin Gardner Michigan, who put up 52 points and 560 yards of offense against Appalachian State on Saturday, and if the Irish fare like the Mountaineers did, then it’ll be time to be worried about the rest of the season.