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Has Golson Improved Enough?

  • I don't disagree with those who believe that the key to the national title tilt is Everett Golson. However, I'm not quite aligned with those who think he's demonstrated enough improvement to give us a break even at his position.

    We can dismiss A. J. McCarron's accomplishments to our hearts' delight. Yet, he retains the nation's highest quarterback passing rating. Part of that is because he hits a lot of plays downfield. His long completion per game averages over 40 yards. He completed less than 60% of his passes only twice, against Michigan and LSU. If we want, we can say he played against poor competition most of the year, but we must then apply the same criteria to Golson.

    Golson's long completion per game is about 30 yards. While we generally consider him to have "grown up" at Oklahoma, the fact is that he completed only 52% in that game, and only 55% and 57% against Pitt and USC. The only teams he had over 60% against were Wake, Boston College, Navy, Purdue and Miami.

    While Golson's feet give us hope, it's only fair to acknowledge that 'Bama has the best defense we'll face this year. No other team on the schedule is as miserly against the run or in yielding points. They were exploited by LSU, A & M and Georgia in the passing game, but could have won all those games as easily as they could have lost them. I think it's clear that their loss and near misses came against better teams than ours. The trio above are clearly superior to Pitt, better by far than BYU and, overall, probably equal to Stanford. Bama literally tore Michigan to pieces while we struggled badly. We can make excuses for all those things, and they might all be valid. After all, we endured the long trip home from Ireland, finals week, and a flat spot vs. BYU after Stanford and against Pitt after Oklahoma. But, again, if we're going to use those as excuses, we must forgive Bama for its poor start against A & M after facing LSU the week before.

    We can win this football game. But, if Golson is the wild card, we must see more from him than we have in any game to date. Alabama , despite their losses from last year, are on a professional level when it comes to college football. There is no one better at being ready for a big game with time to prepare. I think Kelly may well show the world that he is Saban's equal in every way, but it would be foolish to say we have an advantage in the coaching matchup.

    I believe 'Bama is vulnerable to a team that keeps moving the chains. To do that, Golson will have to complete at least 60% of his passes. He'll have to run the zone read nearly to perfection, and the OL will have to move 'Bama's front four laterally to create space for both Golson and the backs.

    If we can move the chains, the offense becomes a second defense. But still, the offense will have to be effective when we get to the red zone. Most likely, we won't be there all that often in this game. So, when we're there, we'll need to capitalize, and we'll have to keep Bama's touchdown percentage in the red zone to 50% or under and not give them any long scoring plays.

    I believe this Notre Dame team has more character than any other team in college football. That's why they're so good int he red zone. However, Saban will have a package ready to defeat our safeties crashing in on the goal line. The way we play down there, even McCarron could walk in if they call the right play at the right time.

    We can win this game, and I think we will. But, Golson will, again, have to show a lot more than he has at any time this year. My hope is that he is ready for an up tempo, expanded playbook, and that Kelly gives it to him. I think 'Bama can be had by preventing substitutions if we have a few new pass plays in the package.

  • Some very salient points, as always, my carbo friend, particularly welcome when we are ensconced in this seemingly interminable lull before the big game. And you are certainly correct within the context you have established, which is primarily statistical. But, the entire notion of Golson as the "X factor" is built around the premise of the unknown, not that which is statistically known. The assumption, and it can be no more than that, is that Golson's best performance lies ahead of him, and that he has been trending upward since mid-season. The leash has been short on Golson. Only when ND's backs were up against the wall against Pitt, was he asked to put the team on his shoulders, and he did, against a reasonably good defense that was playing an inspired game every step of the way. In fairness to both Golson and McCarron, their statistics are not going to be that impressive, because they were not asked to be the show. They both played on well balanced teams, and the object was to win, not put up big numbers. When Bama's back was up against the wall in the LSU game, Saban turned the keys over to McCarron, and he responded most impressively.

    So, yes, I agree we will need to see more of Golson than what we've seen, but there's reason to expect that. There's little reason to expect he's anywhere near his ceiling, nor that he can't do more if called upon. But, beyond that uncertainty, there is one clear known that differentiates him from McCarron -- he gives defenders more to think about on every play, and that makes every other skilled player on ND's offense that much better. It was no accident that the biggest splashes made this year by college football quarterbacks were made by young dual threat stars like Manziel, Marotta, Hundley, Braxton MIller and Golson. It's not coincidence that those are all highly ranked teams, too. Even in the pro game, we see the landscape shifting to mobile QB's like Newton, Griffin and Wilson. When you start breaking out statistics, with these quarterbacks, you have another X factor -- the unknown of how much every one else improves because of the diversions provided by an improvisational quarterback.

    You're right, we should not demean McCarron. He does plenty to win games within the Alabama system. But, we pretty much know what he can do. The same cannot be said about Everett Golson.

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    I may not be pretty, but I'm fast..... POTW 1/31/11 - 2/6/11

  • Very fine debate by two very fine gentlemen about one very fine young man who will lead ND to victory by playing the best game of his young career.

    GO IRISH, UNFINISHED BUSINESS!

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    Gringo Mafia VP of Guinness Intake, once drank Guinness under the table while drinking Guinness with Guinness! POTW 12/24/12 and 7/8/13

  • Mr. Rice,

    Another excellent post on your part, and I always look forward to your wise insights. I will add my two cents, though, on one item. Over the past 40 years, I've learned one of the more misleading and sometimes worthless stats in football can be the QB's completion percentage. I'm much more into yards per attempt.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd rather not see Golson go 10-of-25 for 40 percent (although that's exactly what Joe Montana was in the 38-10 Cotton Bowl win over Texas that won the 1977 national title), but there are two important items to remember from wise ND coaches, past and present. One, Lou Holtz said, 'It's more important that I first teach a quarterback how to throw an incomplete pass than a completed one." The point is, of course, point No. 2, which was Brian Kelly's emphasis this spring to all his QBs: "Zero yards can be a good play."

    Yeah, Golson was only 13-of-25 (52 percent) in that coming-of-age Oklahoma game, but what Kelly praised about that performance was not so much what Golson did but what he didn't do. In the turnover-less game by ND, he prudently threw the ball away about a half-dozen times, and escaped several other lost yardage plays with his maneuverability. The staff often used him in a moving pocket that highlighted his ability to put pressure on the defense as a dual threat. The home-run ball then connected with the 50-yard pass to Chris Brown that set up ND's go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

    Let's put it this way: LSU's Jordan Jefferson completed 11-of-17 (65 percent) against Alabama in last year's national title game. It's a worthless stat. It was good for 53 yards (3.1 per attempt). If ND can average about 7.0 yards per attempt against Alabama and limit the turnovers, I like its chances.

    If I'm given a choice between a clean-up hitter going 3-of-4 in a game (.750) with no RBI or 1-of-4 (.250) with a three-run homer, I'm going to take the latter 100 times out of 100. The batting average might not look as pretty on paper, but the game is about effective production.

    It's somewhat comparable to you. You don't post a lot, but when you do, you usually go yard.

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  • this will be golson's most "improved" game and performance, because kelly knows you take off all the wraps for the big one. you can't turn the ball over true enough, but if you try and "protect" golson by limiting his skillset, we will lose. bk is gonna open things up, particularly the running game, by getting golson out of the pocket and scaring the $hit out of bama's d. safeties up and golson is gonna burn them with the pass, if they stay back, especially on play action stuff, he's gonna take huge chunks of yards with his legs......

    Run the ball. Stop the run. You win, or lose, up front.

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    Irish legend CMC Quote Master and Director of Football Related Discussions 5 Time POTW & 2 Time WPOTW Winner Joined 09/17/05

  • Wow. What a nice little string. Apparently, we've stored up some thoughts as we slogged through the tryptophan fog of the holiday. I agree with absolutely everything everyone has said. I bevieve we have great reason to expect to see something better than we've seen to date from Golson. I believe Kelly will have a more inclusive package for him. I believelYPA is more important than completion percentage, and I think we can easily crack the 7.0 mark. However, there's no guarantee that this will be Golson's greatest game. He IS facing what is probably the best overall defense he's seen this year, and it's a mighty big stage for a guy with his experience level. Still, I know he's a champion, as attested by his high school ring. Despite our hideous struggles of the past 20 years, I've been excited for every game we've played. But, it's nice to once again awaken and feel what the real rush of Notre Dame football adrenaline is like.

    God bless us every one.