After not seeing the playing field for 600 days following an academic suspension that cost Everett Golson the 2013 season, he seemed right at home as he was part of five scores for No.17 Notre Dame in a 48-17 win against Rice.
Golson threw for two scores, and ran for three more at the Irish (1-0) took a close game with five minutes left in the first half and blew it wide open. Leading 14-10, Golson rushed in for his second rushing score of the game to push the Irish lead to 21-10. The Owls (0-1) on their following possession were trying to push into field goal range when Owls quarterback Driphus Jackson threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted my Matthias Farley.
On the ensuing possession, Golson scrambled away from trouble and unleashed a strike to C.J. Prosise for a 53 yard touchdown to make it 28-10. The catch helped atone for a drop Prosise had earlier in the game on a similar type of play that would have resulted in another Irish score.
The Owls opened up with the ball to start the second half, and drove down the field with a chance to put three points on the board. But first time field goal kicker James Hairston slipped a bit on the kick, and they came up with no points.
After another Irish field goal, and a failed Rice fake punt, Notre Dame had great field position and made it count. Golson would connect with Amir Carlisle on 22 yard completion, then capped off the drive with his third rushing score of the day, putting the Irish up 38-10.
The Irish would add one more field goal before both teams would go to their backup quarterbacks. Owls backup Tyler Stehling found a wide open James Mayden for a 53 yard score, the secondary’s second blown coverage of the da, both leading to Rice touchdowns.
Irish backup Malik Zaire would make his first play at Notre Dame a memorable one as he took the read option himself and scampered 56 yards up the sideline, adding a little high step at the end before being tackled at the Rice 19 yard line. Greg Bryant would close out the scoring for the Irish with a nice 17 yard touchdown run, giving the Irish the 48-10 lead.
The Irish were without five starters who are due to appear before the school’s honor code committee after being investigated for possible cheating. They also were without Austin Collinsworth, who sprained his MCL this week in practice.
The defense had a few lapses in coverage, which can be attributed to the loss of Collinsworth, who is mainly responsible for being the “quarterback” of the defensive secondary. But all-in-all, Brian Van Gorder’s new defense was aggressive, and attacked the run well.
Irish special teams, which had been a weak spot last season, shined bright right from the start. Carlisle, Chris Brown, and Bryant all had productive days returning. The lone mistake was a missed field goal by the normally sure footed Kyle Brindza.
The Irish looked strong with Golson back at the helm, and while it was a quick glimpse, Zaire looks more than capable if called upon. The Irish defense will need to work out some of the coverage issues as the head into a battle under the lights against the Michigan Wolverines next week, and multi-threat quarterback Devin Gardner. The Wolverines dispatched of Appalachian State today 52-14.
Next week’s game will be a 7:30 pm ET start at Notre Dame Stadium.