Saturday marked the third time this year Notre Dame has pulled a struggling, healthy Everett Golson from a game in favor of Tommy Rees, a practice that led to success against Purdue and Michigan. But against Pittsburgh, that strategy changed -- Rees threw a bad interception, and when Golson was put back in the game he helped push the Irish to a win.
It's too harsh to say the switch backfired, but it certainly didn't play out the way it had in September. And the days of Rees subbing in for Golson may ultimately be numbered, given how well Golson responded to the benching against Pitt.
"We're getting close to playing through it because of what he did in the second half," Kelly said Sunday. "I don't think we could have done that earlier in the year, quite frankly. I think when we took him out (in September), he was done. He was just mentally done. He was not mentally done (against Pitt) he's closer to getting to that level where let's just keep fighting through it, because we saw him respond with that competitiveness in the fourth quarter and overtime."
Golson said the difference for him was that he knew what he was doing wrong against Pittsburgh, whereas against Michigan he was lost. With Kelly believing Notre Dame had to have a mobile quarterback in against Pitt -- which paid off, as Golson gained plenty of yards on the ground in the fourth quarter and overtime -- the situation made sense for the sophomore's re-insertion in the game.
"He hadn't been in that situation where I felt like when I looked at him he was ready to get back in there. He was ready to get back in the game and knew what he needed to do," Kelly explained. " Now you've got a little bit of history and said, All right, we got a rough spot here. Let's fight through this. You've done this before."
Still, Notre Dame isn't completely at that point where Golson will be given free reign to push through whatever issues may arise on Saturday. Despite an interception that looked straight out of 2011's lowlight reel, Rees has been generally solid for Notre Dame this year, so until Golson completely grasps the Irish offense the possibility for a switch remains.