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September 10, 2012
Brian Kelly insists that Tommy Rees hasn’t become the football equivalent of a closer in baseball.
“No, it’s not a role,” said Kelly Sunday when asked to clarify his decision to insert Rees in place of Everett Golson, who completed 21-of-31 passes for 289 yards in Notre Dame’s 20-17 victory over Purdue.
But it sure was nice having Rees in the bullpen Saturday when the Irish needed a veteran quarterback to run the two-minute offense.
“We feel like if Tommy can help us win a game or can come in in a situation where we believe it’s the right fit, then he’ll be prepared to do so,” Kelly said.
It was Golson’s fumble at the Irish 15-yard line with 3:24 remaining that opened the door for the Boilermakers to tie the game. Kelly then tabbed Rees over Golson, who was bothered by a bit of a thumb injury prior to the game-winning drive.
Golson could have played, but with the young quarterback working out of a “check with me” mode from the sideline throughout the second half, Rees was a better option to run the two-minute drill. Rees led late scoring drives last season against South Florida, Michigan and Pittsburgh.
“I know Everett wanted to be in the game, and that’s a good thing,” Kelly said. “Anybody that gets taken out of the game is going to react in a manner that he wants to play. If they don’t, I don’t want him to be our quarterback.
“But he’s been supported by Tommy and Andrew (Hendrix) in that situation. He’s a young man that’s understanding and growing every day, and we won’t have any issues moving forward.”
Even before Kelly knew that Golson’s thumb was a concern, he was thinking Rees.
“I had already begun the conversation with Coach (Chuck) Martin about installing Tommy into that situation,” Kelly revealed. “So the knowledge of running our two-minute trumped any kind of injury that he may have had. (The injury) contributed in the end to make it an easier decision for me.”
It wasn’t like Golson performed poorly against Purdue. In fact, he was a big reason the Irish were 11-of-19 on third down and had built a 17-7 third-quarter lead before his fumble turned the tide in Purdue’s favor.
Kelly cited just one of the five sacks suffered by Golson in which he “clearly needed to get rid of the football.” The offensive line had a poor showing against a heavily stacked line of scrimmage and continued to seek a mesh with its exciting but green starting quarterback.
Kelly would like to run more “call it and haul it” stuff with Golson to take advantage of his skill set. But as Golson learns about adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage and how to meld his game with the offensive line, the Irish head coach may have to continue to lead Golson by the hand during the transition period.
“We want more ‘call it and haul it,’ but the way the game was put together for us required us to help from the sideline, too,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Golson missed one protection check and had one running play that should have been changed as a result of Purdue bouncing between 5-2 and 3-4 defensive fronts.
“That’s when we started calling the plays,” Kelly said. “But he did a pretty good job. There were only two times when he didn’t have us in the right look.”
Although the goal is to get Golson to throw a “complete game,” Kelly has achieved his intent of developing depth at numerous positions. Quarterback would appear to be one of them.
“Maybe you need long relief and maybe you need some short relief,” Kelly said. “I don’t want to take anything off the table. We would like our starters to finish the game. We want them to go all nine innings, but occasionally, you may need some help.”
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