After Notre Dame opened the season in Dublin, Ireland by pounding Navy, it appeared as though the strength of its offense would be a dominant rushing attack. Cierre Wood was suspended only to watch Theo Riddick gain 107 yards and George Atkinson gain 99 yards.
Everett Golson was making his first start at quarterback and he was 12-of-18 for 144 yards with a touchdown and and interception. So he didn't really do much, but then again he wasn't really asked to do much. So it looked as though Notre Dame's offensive strategy with a young quarterback would consist of a dominant running game and a controlled passing game.
Therefore, it would only be natural for opposing defenses to ground the line of scrimmage to take away the running game and force young Golson to beat them. That is exactly what both Purdue and Michigan State did.
For the most part they did shut down the running game. Purdue held the Irish to just 61 yards rushing. Michigan State was also tough for three quarters against the run, but the Irish began to break through in the fourth quarter and ended with a total of 136 yards.
The problem was, though, that they forced Golson to beat them and he did. In both games Golson has had a passing and a rushing touchdown. He has thrown for 467 yards in those two games. Most importantly, he has not thrown an interception. His game-management skills do need improvement but he has proven he can make the plays.
There are certain quarterbacks like Tim Tebow who although they get the job done, they just don't look good throwing the ball. I guess you can also put Tommy Rees into that category as well, but when you watch Golson throw it just looks nice. His mechanics are incredible. I have always been a Rees fan, but there is no way he would have made that throw to John Goodman. He lacks both the arm and the elusiveness.
Therefore, opposing defenses can no longer have a one-dimensional plan that involves stuffing the run and forcing Golson to beat them. If they do that, Golson will beat them. That can only make Wood, Riddick and Atkinson happy. They know that they will have wider lanes since the box is not getting stacked as much.
For Golson, it will be an adjustment. There will be less having to evade a great rush and hitting a receiver in single coverage. That will mean more coverage deep. That means Golson will have to learn to read defenses and take what the defense gives.
It will be interesting to see how Golson handles that adjustment. The good news is that he has a great team around him with all those runners, a good group of receivers and possibly the best tight end in the country in Tyler Eifert. He also has an experienced backup in Rees who can come in in situational spots.
Then when you combine that with a hard-hitting defense, it is exciting to think how good this team can be.