Notre Dame no longer needs to keep closer Tommy Rees warmed up in the pen. Everett Golson has this, and it is time to just hand the job over without the burden of Golson looking over his shoulder.
Head coach Brian Kelly has kept Golson on a short leash all season, and you certainly can't knock him for it. The Irish are undefeated, and they wouldn't be if Rees hadn't come in with some solid late-game performances.
However, Golson has grown enough that he deserves a chance to make the job his. He proved this last week in Notre Dame's overtime win over Pitt.
In that game, Golson once again found himself on the bench after making some questionable decisions that Kelly obviously was not a big fan of. So Kelly made the call to the pen and brought in Rees. He promptly threw an interception, and bam, Golson was back in.
This was a huge moment for Golson. He was either going to overcome his previous mistakes and benching, or he would overcome them and succeed. He succeeded, and earned the right to be the full-time starter in the process.
He won me over, which should be a huge honor to him, but possibly even more importantly, he appears to have won his coach over.
The Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton offered up this quote from Brian Kelly on Golson's ability to overcome mistakes.
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We're getting close to playing through it because of what he did in the second half, I don't think we could have done that earlier in the year, quite frankly. I think when we took him out (earlier in the) year, he was done. He was just mentally done.
He was not mentally done (Saturday). So, in truthfulness, I would tell you that he's closer to getting to that level where let's just keep fighting through it, because we saw him respond with that competitiveness in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Golson rewarded Kelly for his confidence in him by making the game-winning run on a one-yard plunge into the end zone in triple overtime, and on the whole, his decision making was sound.
We are talking about a quarterback who has the athletic ability to be a true dual-threat quarterback. One that has just needed to get more comfortable, confident and smart in the offense.
He has made those strides and he has grown as the season has gone on. He now has earned the right to not have to look over his shoulder, and he will continue to grow with the increased playing time and working through difficult situations.