I am not trying to start a quarterback controversy where there is none.
Tommy Rees has stepped in this year and has been a big part of three wins without his signature barrel of turnovers. And we all are, and should be, justifiably grateful he was there to keep a magical season rolling.
Ya done good Tommy, and we’re glad to have ya.
But after Saturday’s performance against Oklahoma in a 30-13 win, Everett Golson has cemented his position as Notre Dame’s starter for the foreseeable future.
Head coach Brian Kelly has given him high praise and unwavering support, and the Fighting Irish have adopted EG as their once and future king.
It’s good to be king, and I just thought you should all know why Golson is King, and why he must not relinquish the throne.
A Tale of Two Games
Once upon a time, we had two games in the past two weeks using two different quarterbacks.
In both games the Irish played a Top-12 passing defense, rushed for over 200 yards and threw for less than 200 yards.
In both games the Irish defense stoned the opposing offense for 14 points or less and were plus one in turnover margin.
And in both games the Irish won.
The games were nothing alike.
Game One: BYU vs. Notre Dame—Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
Tommy Rees quarterbacked the BYU game two weeks ago at Notre Dame Stadium.
Against the Cougars, the Irish ground out 389 yards, as Rees threw for just 117 yards with one pick that BYU converted to a short-field touchdown.
Rees also chipped in with negative eight yards rushing, for a net of 109 yards total offense.
As is the case when the Irish face a top-flight defense with Rees behind center, Notre Dame leaned heavily on a ground game that pounded out 270 yards rushing despite a Cougar defense that consistently put seven or more in the box.
Yes, those middle-aged women can hit, and they love a crowd.
By luck, or possibly by design, an ill-tempered Notre Dame defense gave up two relatively short-field second-quarter touchdowns before stepping on BYU’s neck and holding it there until the breathing stopped.
For those of you just coming off a huge bender, the Irish ended up coming from behind in the fourth quarter to nip the No. 12 best passing defense in the country 17-14.
Rees got the winning drive started with a 31-yard sideline route to TJ Jones, and the final 41 yards was covered by six rushes sandwiched around a Rees incompletion.
And the crowd cheered.
Game Two: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma—Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
A week later against No. 8 ranked Oklahoma and No. 11 in pass defense, in the seventh game of his collegiate career, Everett Golson stood behind center surrounded by a sea of red Soonerists.
He wasn’t in Kansas anymore. (It was Oklahoma, which is right next to Kansas, but a little south, with a lot less corn.)
Notre Dame’s ground game again pitched in with 215 yards, and the defense shaved a point off the prior week’s performance by giving up only 13 to the country’s No. 13 ranked best offense.
Against the Sooners, the Irish gained 403 yards, as EG threw for 177 yards with no picks and no fumbles.
He also chipped in with 64 yards rushing for total offense of 241 yards, 60 percent of the Irish offense for the day.
For Golson's late heroics, on the Irish’s first fourth-quarter drive, EG was 4-of-4 for 74 yards and dove for the go-ahead touchdown on third down from one yard out to finish the drive.
And the crowd went silent, as former Heisman hopeful Landry Jones could not rally his men.
The King is dead, long live the King.
So Why Is Tommy Rees Not the Heir to the Throne?
Tommy Rees has played in 23 games and is 13-4 as a starter and has a higher career quarterback rating than Golson (137.4 to 122.1).
Rees has completed almost 64 percent of his passes for 4,323 yards and 34 touchdowns. Although turnover-prone most of his career, this year he has one interception in roughly two games with no fumbles.
With those numbers, he would be the starting QB on most teams, plain and simple.
But if you look at the last two games as a microcosm of what is happening at QB at Notre Dame, it’s easy to see why Rees has ceded the throne to EG.
The euphoria of victory against BYU masked an awful outing by Rees against the No.12 best passing defense in the country.
Rees went 7-of-16 for 117 yards and threw a pick that set up BYU’s second touchdown. Oregon and USC expect that much out of their QB in a quarter, sans the pick.
In the process, Rees couldn’t move the chains against BYU, going 1-of-6 for four yards on third down, with no scrambles or designed runs for first down yardage on any down.
I may have a sofa that can take Rees in the 40.
Of Rees' seven completions, Tyler Eifert caught four, covered or not. That’s the same myopic dependence Rees showed when Michael Floyd was doubled and tripled all last year.
While Notre Dame won, it clearly wasn’t the quality of the QB's play that got them there.
Not demeaning the effort, just stating fact.
So Why Is Everett Golson King?
Everett Golson has played in seven games and is 7-0 as a starter (not counting one opening series late for practice sit down), but one need only look at the last two games to see why he is indeed the greatest king since Elvis.
Statistically speaking, both BYU and Oklahoma had strikingly similar defenses.
Is Everett Golson the king because he had less turnovers, or more yards passing, or more yards rushing or because he won on the road against a higher-rated team?
Partly, but not really.
EG should be named king because while Tommy Rees didn’t lose to BYU, Everett Golson beat Oklahoma.
In an Irish offense that is predicated on moving the chains, on third down EG threw for four first downs and ran for two more.
Think about that - if Golson pulls the 1-6 on third downs that Rees dropped on BYU, the Sooners have five more possessions in a game that was 13-13 starting the 4th quarter...and that's not counting two other runs for first downs on first and second down that aren't going to happen with Tommy running the show.
An offense that has to stretch the field vertically to open up the running game and the underneath routes had an 18 yard fade to TJ Jones down the left hash, a 22-yard sideline route to DaVaris Daniels down the right hash, and a 50-yard strike to Chris Brown down the middle.
Sooner safeties were peeing themselves.
An offense that has to spread the ball around to keep the defense guessing had a QB throw 13 completions to six different receivers...tough odds to guess at.
Just as important, an Oklahoma defense that consistently pressed the pocket found a QB that escaped and bought time, or made the edge for positive yardage time after time.
EG reminded me of me, but with speed and agility.
While he is still far from the perfect monarch, Golson is king because he can run Kelly’s offense the way it’s supposed to be run, even against the big boys.
We’re not hiding our QB behind our running game anymore, we’re running with him, and often because of him.
While Golson still has a lot of learning to do, he’s already a weapon among many good weapons.
As EG gets more comfortable reading the defense and getting the offense into the plays, he has already shown he has the right tools and mentality to challenge even the best defenses.
That’s what a king does. That and pass oppressive taxes to wage more wars and such.
I openly applaud Kelly for bringing Rees in to spell Golson on occasion, and I have no reservations if the occasion comes up again this year.
And I still thank Rees for saving our asses against Purdue and Michigan.
But make no mistake, this is Everett Golson’s team now, and he’s the only one on the roster that has the combination of skill and experience to go head-to-head with a Top 10 defense and still be productive.
As a result, for the first time in three years we have a QB that can win games, not just manage them.
EG, keep it up—your kingdom awaits you.
Long live the King.