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Sunday Conversation With Kelly

The helmet-to-helmet hit that took Notre Dame sophomore quarterback Everett Golson out of the game in the fourth quarter against Stanford Saturday resulted in a concussion, head coach Brian Kelly said in his Sunday teleconference. The early prognosis, however, is that Golson should be cleared to practice Tuesday.

It’s good news for a Fighting Irish squad, which moved up two spots to No. 5 in the most recent Associated Press poll, and that should land in the top five tonight when the first BCS standings are released. Golson finished a pedestrian 12-for-24 passing for 141 yards, one touchdown and three fumbles lost. Junior Tommy Rees entered the game and led the Irish to a game-tying field goal to force overtime before hitting classmate T.J. Jones on a seven-yard slant for the decisive touchdown in the extra period. Rees was 4-for-4 for 57 yards and a touchdown.

“[Everett] had a concussion, so he’s going through the steps — the protocol that we have,” said Kelly, who later acknowledged Golson suffered a turf toe injury in the second quarter against Miami. “He was still a bit symptomatic today, so he’ll go through his cognitive testing tomorrow. We expect that, if all things move in this direction, that he should be cleared by Tuesday.

“If he’s not able to go or is not cleared, then Tommy and Andrew Hendrix would be our quarterback situation. Talking to Dr. [James] Moriarty, who is one of the lead guys in concussions, he felt pretty confident that he’d be cleared by Tuesday.”

As a team, Notre Dame rushed for 150 yards in the 20-13 win over the 17th-ranked Cardinal, which included minus-23 yards combined with a Rees sack and a botched snap on a punt that Ben Turk recovered. Seniors Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick each had 12 carries, with Wood finishing with 66 yards and Riddick pocketing 45. Kelly has reiterated that, with such a deep backfield, which also includes sophomores George Atkins III and Cam McDaniel, that the hot hand will get the ball. Wood appeared to be the hottest, but rarely got the call on back-to-back plays.

Kelly explained that being a reliable pass catcher is a major part of the equation, which is why Riddick remained on the field the majority of the time. Riddick caught three balls for 38 yards.

“We value all of those backs and what they can do to help in the running game,” Kelly said. “Theo had a very, very good game catching the ball for us; he made two great catches that helped us win the football game. So, it’s not only running the ball; it’s the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well. That’s been the change this year from last year in terms of the complete running back. Cierre is getting better at that each and every week, and again, I think all three of those guys are continuing to work on being the complete back.”

Shembo thriving at Cat

The move from Dog linebacker to the Cat position this season has paid off for junior Prince Shembo and the Fighting Irish defense. Shembo’s tenacity when it comes to stalking quarterbacks came naturally to the 6-2, 250-pounder, and the switch put Shembo back in his element.

“He’s a relentless player,” Kelly said of Shembo, who is second in tackles for a loss (three) and sacks (two) behind only sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt (6.5 TFL, all sacks). “He has an ability to get to the edge and really force some pressures.”

Shembo is tied with Tuitt with seven quarterback hurries.

“I know he was very frustrated [against Miami], and you could tell just in his demeanor in practice that he was going to make sure his presence was felt,” Kelly added. “That’s just the kind of kid he is; he’s just has a high motor and can play all day.”

Defending Golic

From the perspective of fans and reporters, fifth-year senior right guard Mike Golic Jr. had far from his best day against Stanford with a number of false start penalties. Kelly said not to be so quick to single him out for those mistakes.

“Well, I don't know that Mike Golic had a lot to do with those false starts,” he said. “You know, there's a lot of other things going on out there that I'm not going to get into right now. Mike has made progress. Mike is he played against a very, very good defense, and they won some, Mike won some. The thing with Mike, he's such a dedicated player.”

BCS business

No matter where Notre Dame lands on the first installment of the BCS standings this evening, Kelly doesn’t plan on discussing it much, if at all, with his team.

“I don't normally gauge the interest of these things with our football team, so I would never ask the questions,” he said. “They watch TV. I mean, they see that. There's a sense of pride. There's no question that when you're talked about and you're putting Notre Dame up there in the top five, there's a sense of pride. I just have to make sure that they understand that with that pride comes a greater obligation to do the thing the right way. I think that's how we'll handle it.”

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