After benching, Golson steers Notre Dame to victory

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After benching, Golson steers Notre Dame to victory

Everett Golson finally felt comfortable, and that was despite losing his starting role.

Before Notre Dame's 41-3 throttling of Miami at Soldier Field, the team announced Golson would be benched in favor of Tommy Rees. That's all anybody outside the Irish locker room knew, and it seemed reasonable to posit Golson had lost his starting role only a few days after coach Brian Kelly re-affirmed it in South Bend.

Instead, Rees took three snaps and gave way to Golson, who turned in arguably the best game of his young career, completing 17-of-22 passes for 186 yards while rushing six times for 51 yards.

"I feel little bit more confident," Golson said after the game. "It wasn't necessarily because of this game, just the whole week of preparation really made me feel a little bit more confident. It really showed throughout the game."

That week of preparation, though, involved Golson being dinged for violating a team rule -- thus, the benching to begin the game. Coach Brian Kelly said Golson's punishment stemmed from a meeting with a professor that ran long, and the quarterback didn't communicate that with the team and missed the start of a football obligation.

"But he took full responsibility for it, accountability for it," Kelly said. "I thought he came in and played very well. I was proud of him today."

It was only two weeks ago when Golson was at his worst, throwing two interceptions and looking lost before he was lifted in favor of Tommy Rees from Notre Dame's 13-6 win over Michigan. But with two weeks to re-assess, Golson looked like a completely different quarterback at Soldier Field.

"My main motive tonight was just to have fun, never try to -- I'm not going to make anything too serious, but I think I put a lot of pressure on myself during the Michigan game, so talking to coach Kelly and coach Martin, they really just wanted me to calm down and have fun out there," Golson said.

"I didn't really feel like I was having fun out there," he added about his performance against Michigan. "Just stuff off the field added a little bit of extra pressure or whatnot. But when I'm on that field, I gotta play within myself, I can't let other stuff affect my play."

Golson didn't force anything and didn't make any questionable reads on Saturday. He looked like the quarterback of a 5-0 team, one that's solidly in the AP top 10 and has legitimate BCS aspirations.

With questions mounting about whether a quarterback controversy was brewing in South Bend, the news before Saturday's game probably set off alarm bells at more than a few locations across Notre Dame nation. But Kelly's decision to insert Golson into the game after three plays wasn't about quieting that noise -- it was about Kelly expressing his faith in his freshman quarterback.

"It was important for me after disciplining him to get him back in the game right away, to let him know that I had trust in him, and that I believed in him," Kelly said. "I think that helped him to go in and be relaxed and feel like, hey, I've got the head coach's support here, even though I goofed up, he's going to put me right back in the game. And I think that really helped his confidence and then he backed it up with this play."

Perhaps aiding in Golson's success was the use of his legs. Entering Saturday, Golson had rushed 21 times for -11 yards, but thanks to implementing the zone read into Notre Dame's playbook, he rushed for 51 yards on six carries.

"I felt that it was good that we implemented that in our offense this week, because they never really had a chance to prepare for that because we haven't really shown it before," Golson said.

It took Notre Dame five games to implement the zone read, when the coaching staff finally had enough confidence in Golson to use it. And it's just another example of how Notre Dame's offense is still growing, and has plenty of room for improvement -- even after scoring 41 points.

"Today, we showed a glimpse of what we could be," Golson said. "And just to think about it, to me, is kinda scary. We got all the physical tools. It's just a matter of putting it together and playing as a unit."

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

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Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

Things are not going too well in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes saw their losing streak stretch to four games Saturday with an upsetting 98-89 home loss to Omaha.

Iowa has been a high-scoring team this season, entering the weekend with the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense at 85.6 points a game, but it's also been the league's worst defensive team, allowing an average of 85 points a game. And that's before the Mavericks nearly hit the century mark on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded, including a big advantage for the Mavericks on the offensive boards, where they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Omaha's bench outscored Iowa's bench, 37-9, and the Mavericks had a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint.

Trailing by six after allowing 53 first-half points, the Hawkeyes led for just 18 seconds over the game's final 21-plus minutes.

Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer, poured in 33 points in this one, though efficiency was not his strong suit, going 8-for-21 from the field. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Iowa's losing streak stands at four, the loss to Omaha linking with losses to Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have surrendered an average of 96.7 points. In four of their five losses on the season — the heretofore unmentioned one coming against Seton Hall — opponents have scored at least 91 points.

The Hawkeyes' only wins this season have come against Kennesaw State, Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Iowa has five more non-conference games — including a date with ranked in-state rival Iowa State — prior to the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.

Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

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Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

What a difference a week makes.

Last week was a nightmare for Illinois, with a home loss to Winthrop followed by back-to-back double-digit losses to West Virginia and Florida State in Brooklyn.

But things went much differently this week, with Tuesday's win over North Carolina State paired with a Saturday victory over VCU to make for a bounce-back stretch for a team that looked lost just a handful of days ago.

Saturday's win in Miami came in convincing fashion, Illinois victorious by a 64-46 score over a team that's been to six straight NCAA tournaments.

The Illinois defense held VCU to its lowest scoring output since 2005. The Illini held the Rams to just 30.2-percent shooting and 2-for-18 shooting from 3-point range.

The Illini fell behind early in this one but countered VCU's opening success with a 19-3 run that put them ahead by eight in the closing minutes of the first half. That run featured seven points from Leron Black and five from Maloclm Hill, the start of huge games for both guys. A Hill buzzer-beater at the half gave Illinois its biggest lead of the opening 20 minutes at 10.

VCU scored 11 straight points in the early stages of the second half to chop a 12-point Illinois lead all the way down to one. Things stayed close until a 10-3 run by the Illini — featuring eight points from Jalen Coleman-Lands — stretched the Illinois edge back out to double digits, an 11-point lead with about three minutes to go. After a pair of VCU free throws, Hill knocked down a 3-pointer with two and a half minutes left to seal the game, establishing a 12-point advantage the stretched to nearly 20 by the final horn.

Black finished the game with a career-high 18 points, coming close to a double-double with eight rebounds. Hill had 16 points and filled the stat sheet with five assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block. Coleman-Lands was an unusual oh-fer from 3-point range but still scored in double figures with 12 points. Tracy Abrams was a perfect 3-for-3 from deep, accounting for all nine of his points, and had six rebounds and four assists.

Illinois sits at 6-3 on the season, two games better than it was a week ago after back-to-back wins against name opponents. Four more non-conference games are on the docket — against IUPUI, Central Michigan, BYU and Missouri — before the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.