Whether it's been due to injuries or poor play, Notre Dame QB Everett Golson has found his way to the bench on many occasions this season. But in order for the Fighting Irish to gain traction for their late-season push for the national title, the freshman must remain the main man under center in South Bend.
The latest occurrence of Golson finding his way to the sideline happened during the nail-biting, three-overtime thriller at home this Saturday against Pittsburgh. Armed with a determined running back in Ray Graham and steely resolve, the Panthers nearly pulled off the massive upset before ultimately falling short, 29-26.
If not for Golson, the shocker that would have soured Notre Dame's season definitely would have happened.
For perhaps the first time all season, it was up to the Irish quarterback not to just make a play here or a play there or orchestrate one drive to win the game. Rather, the flow of the game dictated that Golson had to produce—and produce for the entire duration he was calling the shots.
Golson's breakout game at Oklahoma apparently wasn't enough to secure his job through two quarters, but he bounced back in a big way after being pulled.
He put together two third-quarter touchdown drives. One was capped off with a missed extra point, and Golson made up for it by running for the game-tying two-point conversion. Not to mention, he notched the game-winning TD on a one-yard plunge, which B/R of course captured beautifully on Twitter:
Everett Golson sneaks in for the game-winning touchdown in triple overtime. Notre Dame 29 - Pittsburgh 26 twitter.com/BleacherReport…
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 3, 2012
After the game, the inexperienced QB refused to look at his benching as a negative, instead opting to put a positive spin on the circumstances (h/t Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune):
At that point I didn't know I would get a chance [to reenter the game]. To be honest, I was a little upset. Just because of the competitor in me; I just wanted to be out there. (But) actually seeing my mistakes and kind of seeing it from the sideline and seeing what they were doing really helped me come back in and lead us to the victory.
That sort of maturity is encouraging to see out of a redshirt freshman, whose final stat line was 23-of-42 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The X-factor was his running ability, though, as he not only kept passing plays alive with his feet, but also managed 74 yards on 15 carries.
As good as Tommy Rees has been in spot duty, continuing to give Golson valuable game-day reps will be crucial, in spite of his mistakes.
Against 2-7 Boston College, Golson should have no problem building on his heroics from the Pitt game. From there, a slightly tougher but easily-winnable matchup awaits with Wake Forest.
Here is the kicker: the season finale at USC.
If Golson keeps getting shuffled off the field in weeks leading up to that huge rivalry game, it may finally be one too many go-rounds of the QB carousel for Irish head coach Brian Kelly. Allowing his young quarterback to build on the positives of the past two weeks will much more adequately prepare Golson for the final two games on monstrous national stages.
A BCS championship may even be at stake in the latter—but not with Golson frequenting the field space outside the white lines.