Despite helping lead the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish to a 13-6 victory over the University of Michigan Wolverines on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, quarterback Tommy Rees will not supplant 19-year-old sophomore Everett Golson as the team’s starter under center.
Head coach Brian Kelly, who has guided Notre Dame to its first 4-0 start since 2002, made it clear that Golson is the man he wants to bring the Irish to gold.
“We’re 4-0, so I’d say that having Tommy in there the two times that he did play, if you measure it from that standpoint, it’s worked out okay,” said Kelly, 50, a three-time Big East Coach of the Year who mercifully replaced the hideously obese Charlie Weis as Notre Dame’s leader in December 2009. “You want to go with one quarterback, but we have a freshman quarterback who’s experiencing being a young quarterback. (If) I can prop him up with a veteran to win a football game because we’re in this to win it, then we’ll do that.”
Rees, a native of Illinois who threw 19 touchdowns, in comparison to 12 interceptions, for 2,708 yards in 12 games last year, again replaced an ineffective Golson midway through the second quarter this past weekend.
“It’s a great feeling any time you can beat Michigan,” said Rees, 20, who pleaded guilty on July 23 to misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor after kneeing a member of the fuzz in the gut. “It’s a great environment … a lot of fun.”
In actuality, although the offense needs to begin producing more consistently, Notre Dame’s suffocating defense, led by 6-foot-2, 255 pound linebacker Manti Te’o, has been the story to date.
“A great team win for our guys,” said Kelly, a simmering hothead who has managed to primarily remain calm this September. “Defensively what can I say? Six turnovers, limited who we felt is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country to no touchdowns. Just an incredible performance by our defense.”
Unlike at any other time in recent memory, Notre Dame has speedsters on defense that can stifle an explosive offense and make elite talents like Michigan (2-2) signal-caller Denard Robinson look like a gump.
The Irish will not again take the gridiron until they meet the University of Miami Hurricanes on October 6 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Essentially playing a home game in “The Windy City,” there is no reason that Notre Dame shouldn’t improve to 5-0 in roughly two weeks.
Unfortunately for fans of Notre Dame, with Stanford, Oklahoma and USC on the horizon, there is a greater likelihood of Pope Joseph Ratzinger conducting prayer in a synagogue than the Irish finishing undefeated this autumn.
Once Kelly’s renowned spread offense begins performing to its capabilities and creates a balance on both sides of the ball, Notre Dame will finally reestablish itself as a national powerhouse.
With Irish-American Brian Kelly, Notre Dame is “in this to win it.”