NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Brian Kelly lingered on the field Saturday afternoon, soaking up the sun inside Notre Dame Stadium before making his way up the tunnel. Before Kelly hit the locker room he'd already been lobbied to start Everett Golson in Dublin this September.
"Everett! Everett!" a fan implored Kelly while leaning over the railing.
Notre Dame's head coach appears at least willing to entertain that thought.
Golson not only finished 11-of-15 for 120 yards passing and two touchdowns in the Blue-Gold Game, he rushed six times for 25 yards. He didn't turn the ball over once. All his drives closed with points save the first one when a late snap hit a motioning Theo Riddick, turning into a lost fumble.
"The quarterback position is the art and science," Kelly said. "In putting both the art and the science together, (Golson) is very creative. The art part he's got down. It's the science and the consistency, all of those things to be a championship quarterback."
If Golson didn't emerge as the winner of Notre Dame's four-man quarterback competition on Saturday, he at least turned in the position's best performance. Tommy Rees went 7-of-14 for 84 yards and a pick, badly overthrowing a receiver and struggling against eight-man coverages. Andrew Hendrix finished 4-of-9 for 51 yards and a 25-yard touchdown to Tyler Eifert. He forced an interception to Ishaq Williams but also showed some escapability.
Gunner Kiel played the entire second half, mixing and matching with walk-ons, starters and back-ups. He went 5-of-10 for 57 yards and an interception. He did not lead a scoring drive.
"Now this summer, they've got to help themselves," Kelly said. "The guy that really commits to the details this summer is probably the one of the guys that's going to start it."
Notre Dame's defense emerged from the scrimmage 42-31 winners, accumulating points for stops and turnovers. The group forced three interceptions and recovered three fumbles, all by sophomore linebackers. Williams, Matthias Farley and Chris Salvi all made interceptions.
The Irish didn't sack any of the four quarterbacks despite each being live.
"I love the way our team has come together," Kelly said. "That's probably, more than anything, we've moved the team forward, now attention to detail."
The Irish struggled in that department with turnovers, penalties and delays of game. Even without a running play clock, Notre Dame's quarterbacks still found a way to expire it.
Still, Notre Dame may have discovered a few playmakers in the process, despite those fits and false starts.
Eifert looked comfortable filling Michael Floyd's go-to receiver role, adding a 31-yard catch to his 25-yard touchdown. He nearly caught a bomb from Hendrix down the seam too, but Josh Atkinson broke it up. DaVaris Daniels made an over-the-shoulder catch from Rees along the sidelines.
Kona Schwenke backed up the coaching staff's claims he's been the defense's most improved player by creating pressure and being named a captain. Lo Wood didn't make any big plays, but didn't get beat for any either. Josh Atkinson showed he could get in position to make stops after struggling for stretches this spring.
If Golson wasn't the scrimmage's biggest surprise it was George Atkinson, who carried 15 times for 124 yards to go with three catches for 54 yards. During the first half he spun out of a Williams' tackle in the backfield for a 30-yard run.
"I think there is no question in my mind that we've got enough players out there to compete," Kelly said. "I'm not worried about not having enough players. We need to continue to build the players that we have, and we have a long way to go. I was pleased with that."?
The 31,582 at the Blue-Gold Game, the fifth-largest crowd to see a Notre Dame spring scrimmage, seemed to agree. Some voiced their opinions louder than others about which players should play the most this fall, potentially starting with Golson.
Kelly didn't expect to make a quarterback decision leaving the Blue-Gold Game and stuck to that plan. But it's hard to know if he expected to have this much to ponder either.
"We've got a lot of work to do with all the quarterbacks to get them to the level that we want. And we have a high bar set for them," he said. "So, yeah, I saw some things out there that they hadn't done in the past. But yet two interceptions (from Rees and Hendrix) in particular where we've seen that movie before.?
"So we've got to move past that."