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  • Golson Leads Irish Romp Over Rice

    by John Vannie

    Everett Golson threw two long touchdown passes and ran for three more scores to lead Notre Dame to an easy 48-17 victory over the Rice Owls in the season opener. The Irish rolled up 576 yards of total offense under the direction of Golson, who recorded 295 passing yards in three quarters of action. The senior’s athletic ability and strong arm were very much in evidence from the outset and served as a reminder to fans how critical the quarterback position is in Brian Kelly’s offense. Brian Van Gorder’s defense also passed its first test despite a couple of lapses in the secondary, and Notre Dame’s special teams took a considerable leap forward from recent campaigns.

    The offense sputtered briefly at the outset, but a pair of long punt returns by Cody Riggs changed the field position in Notre Dame’s favor. On its third series, the Irish capitalized on a short field as Golson finished a seven play drive with an 11-yard scoring run. The Owls responded on the next series, when poor communication in the Notre Dame’s secondary left Zach Wright wide open for a 26-yard touchdown pass from Driphus Jackson. The pregame loss of starting safety Austin Collinsworth to a knee injury was not entirely a coincidence on the play. Golson was unfazed, however, and immediately launched a 75 yard bomb to Will Fuller for a 14-7 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter.

    Rice kept battling, and a James Hairston field goal closed the gap to 14-10 shortly after Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza missed his first attempt of the year. As the skies darkened around the stadium, the Irish unleashed their own thunder and lightning before the half and put the game away. A 32-yard laser from Golson to Amir Carlisle keyed the ensuing drive, which again ended with Golson diving over the goal line at the end of a 14 yard scramble. With less than 30 seconds remaining before intermission, Matthias Farley intercepted an errant Jackson throw near midfield. Golson seized the opportunity by firing a 53-yard strike to C.J. Prosise for a 28-10 halftime lead. The score served as a bit of redemption for Prosise, who earlier had dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball at the goal line.

    Notre Dame dominated a rain-soaked third quarter as Brindza connected from 36 yards and Golson ran it in again from four yards after tailback Greg Bryant missed a handoff. Kelly cleared the bench in the fourth quarter, and the defensive reserves surrendered a long touchdown pass to their Owl counterparts. The Irish had the last word as backup quarterback Malik Zaire brought the crowd to its feet with a 56-yard burst on his first Irish carry. Bryant then finished the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown for the final margin.

    The Irish displayed diverse offensive weaponry as several receivers and all three tailbacks made significant contributions. Jaylon Smith led the defense with numerous stops and Sheldon Day was particularly disruptive among the linemen. Overall tackling was respectable although there were a few escapes that need to be cleaned up. The contributions of the special teams were particularly enjoyable after some embarrassing moments during the last few years. Notre Dame simply has too much talent to remain deficient in this area.

    Let’s take a look at the answers to the pregame questions:

    Which defense will most effectively slow down the opponent’s running game? Notre Dame was much more effective overall, despite a few nice runs by Jackson. Basically, the Irish backs had their way with the Owls.

    Will the 2014 edition of Everett Golson throw the ball on time and accurately downfield ? Absolutely, including some very impressive deep throws on the run. He also threw the ball effectively into the deep middle zones, which is something he was not allowed to do in 2012.

    Can either team rush the quarterback effectively? Both teams generated some pressure but Golson was better equipped to handle it. As the game wore on, Notre Dame did find some success with its pass rush.

    Will the Irish return and coverage teams demonstrate discernable improvement? Absolutely. Punt returns generated 80 yards in this game, as compared to 109 for the entire 2013 season.

    Can the new, ultra-aggressive Van Gorder defense create turnovers? Notre Dame won the turnover battle 2-0, and the interception by Farley set up a touchdown.

    Will Brown, Fuller and the other Notre Dame receivers have breakout performances? Brown and Fuller were solid, while Prosise needs to catch the ball with his hands. Koyack, Carlisle and Robinson also were effective. The group did commit a few drops that took points off the board. Although it did not matter today, these missed opportunities might be costly down the road if they are not cleaned up.

    Will the Irish match the energy level from Rice despite the distraction of the academic suspensions to their teammates? The Irish looked very well motivated despite the suspensions and the injury to Collinsworth. Basically, they followed Golson’s lead.

    How many people will show up in the Stadium for this game? Notre Dame claimed another sellout, although there were several imaginary fans among the 80,000.

    Next up is the final game (for now) in the series with Michigan, which once again will determine the trajectory of the season for both teams.

    14 Responses to “Golson Leads Irish Romp Over Rice”

    1. Great Team Game. I Like That We Dominated Every quarter. We Did Have To Shake Of The Rust Though In The First Quarter. There Were Some Mjstakes, But I Am Not Going To Nitpick. I Do Have The Best Girlfriend Ever Though For Getting Me Tickets To The ND Vs FSU. Lets Hope For An Undefeated Matchup Then.I Am Thinking 9-4 This Season With Defence Being The X Factor.

    2. Golson for heisman!!! He looked awesome. Very happy and impressed with how he played. Could have been even worse if our receivers catch all the passes! Time for Michigan…

    3. Good, Comfortable WIN! Now on to the skunk bears. Muck Fichigan. GO IRISH!!

    4. martinjordan says:

      1. Brian Kelly is 4 and 1 on opening day. The wins against Purdue (2010) and Temple (2013) were lackluster and the loss to South Florida in 2011 was disastrous. Yesterday reminded me of the 2012 win against Navy in Ireland.

      2. Golson looked a little rusty on his first two drives but after that he was in complete command of the offense. There was no panic in scramble situations. He kept his head up and looked to make plays down field. this is his team.

      3. The media mistakenly calls Golson a redshirt. Notre Dame doesn’t do it that way. In order to redshirt at ND one has to graduate in four years and be accepted into graduate school. He is eligible for a redshirt year but ND probably won’t grant it due to his academic suspension.

      4. Folsten and Bryant looked explosive but we saw why Cam McDaniel is still in there when Bryant went the wrong way on Golson’s last touchdown.

      5. The offensive line looked good. Nick Martin committed two illegal snap penalties and they gave up one sack but the running backs had nice holes and Golson had time to throw.

      6. Prosise, Koyack, and Fuller each failed to catch one catchable ball apiece. Prosise made up for his with a TD catch near the end of the first half which also let Fuller off the hook for a drop earlier in that drive. Overall the wide receivers were adequate.

      7. The front four looked good. They stopped the run and generated pressure without blitzing.

      8. The linebackers handled the run well but were inconsistent against the pass. Joe Schmidt had a couple of nice hits and Jaylon Smith played well on the edge.

      9. The defensive backfield was a nightmare but they did improve. The loss of Colinsworth and Russell really hurts. Mathias Farley had an interception and a couple of sure tackles. Last year he gave up a couple of crucial big plays against Michigan and Oklahoma due to poor tackling.

      10. Special teams played well except for the missed field goal. Cody Riggs was explosive returning punts. Kelly said they took him out because he had to play defensive back as well and they wanted to get Greg Bryant more touches. Bryant wasn’t quite as good.

      11. Mayock summed up the game well when he said that it was a bunch of three and four star recruits against a bunch of one and two star recruits. He also told a funny story about taking a recruit on a tour of the Boston College campus. The recruit was Doug Flutie.

      12. Some of Brian Kelly’s play calls still leave me scratching my head. Greg Bryant is gashing the defense so he runs a no back set with Bryant out wide to the right?

      13. ND won this game on talent and there is a lot of room for improvement but it’s a good start. We’ll find out a lot more about this team next week against Michigan. I know it’s early, it’s only one game, and it was only Rice but the schedule sets up like 2012. If they can get out of September unbeaten ….

      • Golson has another year because of he sat out his freshman season, not because he missed a semester. If you don’t think he will be offered a fifth year, you’re high.

        • martinjordan says:

          3. The media mistakenly calls Golson a redshirt. Notre Dame doesn’t do it that way. In order to redshirt at ND one has to graduate in four years and be accepted into graduate school. He is eligible for a redshirt year but ND probably won’t grant it due to his academic suspension.

          I stated that he was eligible. I stated ND’s criteria for granting a fifth year. He was suspended for an entire academic year. My opinion is based on ND’s recent track record.

          • He was not suspended for an entire academic year. He missed the 2013 fall semester only. Please name one player who was eligible for a fifth year and didn’t take it, unless they weren’t welcomed back by the coaching staff.

        • I totally agree…Unless he screws up again, Golson will have the opportunity to return for a 5th year….
          Impressive overall performance by the Irish, but our Safety play has me worried….especially against a scrambling QB who buys time with his feet…..

    5. The Fighting Irish looked very promising to handle the difficult schedule ahead.

    6. NDBonecrusher says:

      I dunno about you John, but I didn’t expect THAT!

      In terms of the D I think there are 2 possibilities for my pleasant surprise, both of which may be true. 1-Rice is not as strong a running team as they were last year, or 2-ND’s front 7 is better than I give them credit for.

      Things to be happy about:1-Opening the season with a big fat decisive “W”. 2-Welcome back Mr. Golson and Mr. Bryant. 3-Punt return. We have one. 4-Malik Zaire. 5-Good defensive effort (see above). 6-Nice running game. 7-The feeling of being “on the attack” in all 3 phases.

      Things to be concerned about: 1-Relatively slow start. 2-Austin Collinsworth. Oy veh the hits just keep on coming! 3-Dropped balls resulting in points left on the field. 4-A BIG defensive hiccup which has likely already been remedied.

      In terms of negatives that’s all I got. Way, way, way better than I anticipated. Let’s give Big Blue an IRISH welcome into the playoff era!

    7. irishhawk50 says:

      Agree with most of the post. The obvious weakness was the secondary and I did see a lot of missed tackles. The offense is explosive as we thought it would be. The secondary is weak and depleted and will have to improve greatly to stop Michigan who are a step or two above Rice. Look forward to next week.
      Go Irish!

    8. With field turf retaining heat, do you think the Irish would ever consider wearing home white on
      a hot Saturday???

    9. Coffey or Vannie – can you do a write up on the ridculousness of Michigans recent “claims” to 11 National Championships?