NORMAN, Okla. -- Playing in just his second-ever collegiate road game, Everett Golson stood in the face of 86,031 fans and looked as poised as he's been all year.
Golson didn't blow up the box score, completing 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards and gaining 64 yards on 11 rushes. But the key number for him was zero, as in how many turnovers he committed.
"He's growing up," coach Brian Kelly said.
Beyond the stat sheet, Kelly saw his redshirt freshman quarterback do more than just play with confidence.
"He led -- he actually sensed that he was leading," Kelly said. "He was communicating, he was talking, he was doing things that you hope as you go through this process that start to see. He was confident, he was calm -- all the things that you need to see from your quarterback on the road against a very good opposition in Oklahoma."
That crowd of 86,031 was the largest on Oklahoma Memorial Stadium History. It's a stadium in which OU coach Bob Stoops had only lost four times in 83 games heading into Saturday. In other words, it's not exactly the place a guy making his sixth career start can win with ease. Golson did just that, even if his line doesn't show it.
A little more than a month ago, Golson was coming off a miserable two-interception performance against Michigan in which he was yanked in the second quarter in favor of Tommy Rees. But since then, he's grown, even with the pains of a trio of turnovers against Stanford.
"I don't think I would," Golson said of if he would have handled the atmosphere at OU well last month. "I think that's partially because of the game experience and it's also because of the guys around me. I can admit that six or seven weeks ago I didn't really feel that I was ready."
That growth has been a series-to-series process in games, as Kelly explained two weekends ago following Notre Dame's win over Stanford. Ask any of Golson's teammates, though, and they'll tell you the biggest strides are being made in preparing for those games.
"He didn't just grow up today, he's been growing each week and getting better and improving," tight end Tyler Eifert said. "It's just the way he goes to work, trying to get better and having that as his mindset."
Kelly and Notre Dame designed the Irish to rely on defense for its success as they developed a first-year starting quarterback. But on Saturday, Golson showed his promise -- maybe not statistically, but as a leader.
"Everett Golson led our team," Kelly said. "He had obviously been challenged to continue to grow and it's been a process, but I thought tonight was a big step up for our quarterback, and our offense elevated itself against a great competition on the road."