Everett Golson is becoming the most clutch and thrilling quarterback in college football.
He went 23-of-42 for 227 yards and two touchdowns to one pick versus the Pittsburgh Panthers. Notre Dame's young signal-caller also added 74 rushing yards on 15 carries, including the game-winning score.
For as inexperienced as the kid was entering the 2012 campaign, Golson's poise when the Irish are on the brink of collapsing is impressive. On Saturday, Manti Te'o and Brian Kelly's defense were nowhere near atop their game.
That said, Golson needed to step up after performing rather inconsistent early on.
Well fortunately for the Golden Domers, he got better as the game's duration extended. A gut-check victory keeps Notre Dame perfect.
Responding When it Matters Most
Golson didn't start out too bad against the Panthers.
Notre Dame was tied at three with Pitt after one quarter of play. As the second quarter progressed, Golson gradually declined.
Golson ended up getting relived for Tommy Rees. We must give much credit to Pittsburgh's defense, as it was holding the Irish's balanced attack in check.
Golson saw Notre Dame down 17-6 upon returning to the helm after Rees threw a pick.
Still, Golson was having trouble finding a rhythm in converting third downs. On the bright side, he was able to convert on fourth down not long after reentering, which led to Notre Dame's first touchdown.
After throwing an interception in the red zone, Golson's next outing saved the Irish. He went deep to DaVaris Daniels in a show of confidence, then connected with Theo Riddick for a touchdown before running in the two-point conversion himself.
That drive displayed Golson's tenacity and competitiveness, which gradually increased the momentum rolling into overtime.
Dual-Threat Ability Pays Off
Golson had just minus-11 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns through the first four games.
That all changed against the Miami Hurricanes, where he collected 51 yards rushing. He racked up 41 versus Stanford and 64 against Oklahoma.
It was anticipated that Pittsburgh would focus on shutting down Golson on the ground, right?
Not exactly, because in those three aforementioned contests, Golson did not throw an interception and sported a 59.7 completion percentage. That's not awful for an inexperienced quarterback against good defenses.
In turn, Golson's own ground attack didn't do much until late. The Panthers became his highest total for attempts, completions and touchdown passes in a single game for 2012 (and second-highest for passing yards).
Pittsburgh's defense was going to break at some point. Golson connected with a deep ball to give the Irish crucial momentum, just like in the Oklahoma game.
Everett Golson's Late Heroics
The most clutch moments, obviously, only happen in late-game situations. More specifically, three of Golson's last four victories have come against Stanford, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh.
Before Rees filled in against Stanford, Golson opened the final quarter with a touchdown pass to Kyle Eifert and then converted a key third down to T.J. Jones. Although he didn't finish, he kept the offense moving, and eventually the Cardinal defense broke.
In a tough environment at Oklahoma, Golson didn't turn the ball over all game and faced a 13-13 tie with nine minutes remaining. The Sooners had just scored and the confidence was shifting in their favor. Well, Golson went 4-of-4 for 74 yards on the ensuing possession and capped it off with a go-ahead touchdown run.
Had Golson not given Brian Kelly and the Irish an immediate response score, the game continues on a gradual incline towards Oklahoma. Pittsburgh was basically an encore performance after the Sooners, although this just lasted longer because of the scoring situation.
If Golson doesn't throw a pick, that would have been four consecutive games for him without an interception. Nevertheless, considering that he is a redshirt freshman that possesses consistent reliability, this experience only bodes well for Notre Dame in 2013 and thereafter.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.