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November 22, 2012

Kelly's message gets to Golson

There wasn't a singular moment for Everett Golson when the complex commands of Brian Kelly became simple directions. Yet as the sophomore quarterback approaches the finish line of his first season running Notre Dame's offense, there's no question Golson understands Kelly on a deeper level.

When the head coach talks, the quarterback listens.

That understanding proved historic last weekend against Wake Forest when Golson threw for 317 yards in the first half of a 38-0 blowout. The mark represented a career high for Golson and the most first half passing yardage by a Notre Dame quarterback ever.

How Golson has come around at such a breakneck pace in November starts with Golson.

"I think it was honestly probably thinking of myself a little bit at the beginning of the season," Golson said. "But now it's different because I see the end results and have gotten so close."

Golson is two wins away from the school record for most consecutive victories to start an Irish career. He's the only Notre Dame quarterback to ever beat two top 10 teams on the road in the same season. Unranked USC doesn't represent a chance at a third, just a path to Notre Dame's first title shot in 24 years.

"If you were to come to us last spring and say Everett was going to do this, this season, I don't think anyone would have thought that would have happened," said offensive tackle Zack Martin. "He came into camp very determined and has grown every game. He's a dominant player out there. When he's playing well, he's very dominant.

"He's grown probably as much as anyone on this team."

That growth has included the run game. In September, Golson's scrambles were break-only-in-case-of-emergency stuff. In October it became a developing threat. In November it's turned lethal, including Golson's option pitch to Cierre Wood last weekend that turned into a 68-yard touchdown run.

Golson ran just once against Wake Forest, but there's no question his legs have added a new dynamic to the Irish offense. He rushed 21 times for minus-11 yards during the season's first four weeks. He's carried 59 times for 269 yards in the last seven games.

Since the bye week the only time Notre Dame dialed back Golson's running was in blowouts of Miami and Wake Forest. In every game decided by 20 points or less that Golson played, he carried at least 11 times.

"We just weren't ready to put him in a running situation," Kelly said. "He still needs another coat of armor on him.He needs another year in the weight room and needs to get thicker.We need to be judicious in when we run him.We've got to run him.

"Look, he's better when he runs. He's better physically and mentally.He loves to run and get out there.We've been more judicious.Need to run him more."

Now that Golson is dialed into the coaching staff, there's reason to believe Notre Dame will not only run him more, but give the quarterback more pass options too. Kelly hinted Golson needs to connect with Tyler Eifert better in the end zone against fade route coverage.

That interception on a forced ball to a double-covered Robby Toma stuck with Golson too.

But now Golson can stay on stride after those kinds of mistakes. It showed last weekend with the quarterback's footwork and the offense's red zone efficiency. Notre Dame has scored touchdowns on six of its last seven red zone trips.

"The way that he's taking coaching from the start of spring ball to now is completely different," said receiver John Goodman. "He started off getting down on himself and not having confidence in himself. Now he has the utmost confidence. He knows that we all do too.

"That's a good thing to have in your quarterback."

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