An unstoppable run game and dominant defnese has lifted 5-0 Notre Dame to being ranked 7th in the country after a huge win over Miami Saturday night at Soldier Field in Chicago. They hype will be huge as 17th ranked Stanford comes to town this week along with ESPN's College Gameday.
A ton of that credit must also go to Irish rookie quarterback Everett Golson. Irish coach Brian Kelly says Golson grew up Saturday night.
Benched to start the game due to a minor violation of team rules for being late for a team meeting, Golson replaced Tommy Rees midway thru the opening series and played his best game of his young ND career leading Notre Dame to a 41-3 win.
Kelly said Thursday that Golson was his definite starter but Golson then made what Kelly described as a minor mistake. Kelly says the brief benching was a learning experience in better communication.
"He was meeting with a professor, lost track of time," Kelly explained. "He knows he has to communicate with us and do a better job with that. He took full responsibility, accountability for it and came in and played very well--I was proud of him."
The class was history and this will go down as quite the history lesson in motivation for Golson who turned the negative into a positive.
"It was just a chip on my shoulder," Golson explained. "I compare it to everyone criticizing my size from a kid and that always made me work harder. Just kind of having that chip on my shoulder--sitting out--of course it's going to make me work harder and prove what I can be."
Golson was 17-of-24 for 156 yards. He also rushed for 50 yards on the ground and managed the game brilliantly as Notre Dame ran over the Hurricanes all night long with two players---George Atkinson and Cierre Wood--rushing for more than 100 yards each.
"My main motive tonight was to have fun," Golson said. "I'm not going to say not take it seriously. But I put a lot of pressure of myself during the Michigan game. I was talking to coach Kelly and coach Martin and they were telling me just wanting me to calm down and have fun out there."
Rees got the start and Notre Dame went three and out. A roughing the punter penalty gave the Irish an automatic first down and Golson quickly entered the game.
"It was important for me after disciplining him to get him back into the game right away to let him know I had trust in him, I believed in him," Kelly explained. "I think that helped him to go in and be relaxed and feel like 'I have the head coach's support here even though I goofed up, he's going to put me right back in the game.' I think that really helped his confidence and be backed it up with his play."
Golson got some praise from Notre Dame's other #5.
"it shows his growth," Irish captain and linebacker Manti Te'o explains. "He's just going to continue to get better and continue to improve in all that's he doing."
Notre Dame hosts 17th ranked Stanford Saturday at the Stadium.