Quarterback play keeps UNC and ND close
Renee Griffin | Sunday, October 12, 2014
No. 6 Notre Dame’s inconsistency in Saturday’s 50-43 win against North Carolina paralleled senior quarterback Everett Golson’s off-and-on performance throughout the game.
Golson’s 300-yard passing, 71-yard rushing, three-touchdown performance allowed the Irish (6-0) to escape with a victory, but his turnovers were also part of the reason the Tar Heels (2-4) threatened Notre Dame’s spotless record in the first place.
The fumble Golson lost on Notre Dame’s opening drive led to the Tar Heels’ first seven points, and a pick-six thrown by Golson a few minutes later suddenly left the Irish in a 14-0 hole.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly said that while Golson’s ball security was a major concern, the quarterback also showed poise over the span of the game.
“I got in his face a little bit about the first interception. He’s above that interception,” Kelly said. “He bounced back and obviously put the ball on the ground again, which we weren’t too thrilled about. But he bounced back, threw the ball with authority and he was decisive, made some good decisions. But he’s learning.”
Much of Golson’s yardage came from check-down passes to backs and receivers, who then were able to make Tar Heel defenders miss after the catch. Sophomore running back Tarean Folston had a 37-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass on Notre Dame’s first scoring drive. Sophomore wide receiver Will Fuller turned a 10-yard pass into a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Kelly said the shorter passes actually indicated improvement on the part of Golson.
“I think some of the things that [Golson] did out there that helps me feel better about the day itself for him was the check down to the back. That was his fourth read,” Kelly said. “That whole game we saw a progression and process, and that’s a good thing. … He took the adversity and got better as the game went on.”
Golson said staying calm despite the early bad plays was — and will continue to be — crucial.
“[Regaining composure is about] just having that faith and not believing that we were going to lose this game, that we were going to find a way to pull it out somehow,” Golson said. “I have to get out of my own way. … I have to stop turning the ball over, things like that. Once I do [commit a turnover], I got to forget about it because the game still goes on.”
On the other side, North Carolina junior quarterback Marquise Williams amassed 303 passing yards, 132 rushing yards, two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, and a receiving touchdown. Overall, he accounted for 458 of the Tar Heels’ 510 total offensive yards.
“If there was one guy in the game that probably took it over at times, it was [Williams],” Kelly said. “He’s difficult to defend. Great runner, threw the ball effectively, we couldn’t tackle him. We had him two or three times where we couldn’t get him down, missed tackles. Good player.”
However, like Golson, Williams had some costly turnovers that prevented the Tar Heels from pulling off an upset over the Irish. A late interception by Irish sophomore cornerback Cole Luke ended a fourth quarter North Carolina drive that could have tied the score at 43.
The Williams-led Tar Heels gave Golson’s Irish a taste of what an offense with a strong quarterback presence looks like, which will continue next week when Notre Dame visits No. 2 Florida State and its quarterback, reigning Heisman Trophy winner redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston.