With debut out of the way, Golson not taking his foot off the gas

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With debut out of the way, Golson not taking his foot off the gas

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly said this week that he he intends to move ahead with Everett Golson as Notre Dame's starting quarterback, which should come as no surprise. Golson completed 12-of-18 passes for 144 yards with a touchdown and interception in Notre Dame's season-opening blowout win over Navy, doing nothing in the process to lose the job he earned in fall camp.

In the buildup to the season opener, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin both hinted that a rough first game for whoever their starter was could result in a change for Week 2, when junior quarterback Tommy Rees would be reinstated to the team. Golson passed his first test, even if he's not looking at it that way.

"You still have the quarterback situation," Golson said. "I know if there was a game that -- my job is not certain right now, is what I'm saying. I still have my foot on the gas pedal. I'm just going to keep working and trying to be the best I can be."

Nobody knew how Golson would handle his role as he led Notre Dame's offense on to the field in Dublin. Not Kelly, not Martin, not even Golson. But as the game progressed, the sophomore didn't show anything resembling first-game jitters.

"Coming out, I didn't really know what to expect, being that it was my first game," Golson said. "I didn't know what to expect at all. After that first drive, I had a chance to kind of settle in a little bit, that's when I really felt calm."

His coach saw the same thing, and said it's the most encouraging sign that came out of Ireland.

"This is a process for Everett," Kelly said. There will be continual week to week of growing as a quarterback. I guess what I like the most in the big picture sense was his comfortable place out on the field. He did not seem overwhelmed at any time. He was extremely communicative when he got to the sideline. He could tell me what was going on. Those are all big picture, good things, after game one."

Notre Dame's playbook was fairly conservative against Navy, with the passing game sticking to short throws to help Golson ease into things. He was mainly a pocket passer, and was only credited for one rush (which resulted in a loss of eight yards).

And with an offensive line carving out holes for a pair of dynamic running backs, there was little need to be anything more than vanilla.

"It helped me out a lot, and the coaches felt that it was the best game for us," Golson said of the gameplan. "It's kind of one those things, if it's not broke, don't fix it. We're running the ball pretty good, we weren't showing any signs of slowing up, so why stop."

But Golson's teammates see a quarterback who has the ability to do more than sling a few short passes and hand the ball off to an explosive stable of running backs.

"He's got a gun, he can throw the ball," offensive lineman Chris Watt said. "I guess we'll see when he opens it up and starts running a little bit."

"Everett can run, and he can throw," linebacker Manti Te'o explained when asked if Golson reminded him of anyone. "He has a pretty good cannon. He's different. I don't think I've gone against anybody like Everett."

Golson still has a few things to work on before the Notre Dame offense will be ready to open up -- the quarterback noted his decisiveness and footwork were the two biggest areas in which he needs to improve. He may not reach that point this month, next month or this season.

Kelly will readily admit that there will be growing pains as Golson develops. There will be mistakes, as we saw with his interception against Navy (Golson said he missed DaVaris Daniels on the pass). But from the looks of it, Kelly may be willing to live with those issues -- so long as they don't become serious, of course -- as Golson grows into the offense.

While Golson's role appears fairly secure, though, that's not how he's viewing it, choosing to believe he's not guaranteed to start from one week to the next. Although now that he will start against Purdue, he can finally look forward to his home debut.

"It's going to be tremendous, man. It's going to be real crazy," Golson said of Saturday's game at Notre Dame Stadium. "Playing in Dublin, I guess my nerves were a little bit low because you didn't really know anybody in Dublin, or at least I didn't. Playing in front of 81,000 fans that you actually know, the nerves are still going to be there but I'm just going to stay calm and stay the course."

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Kris Bryant will likely miss the first two games of this weekend's series against the St. Louis Cardinals and could miss the whole three-game set, according to Joe Maddon.

The Cubs manager said the reigning National League MVP will be sidelined as he recovers from a sore finger, injured when he slid head first into third base in the first inning of Wednesday's series-finale against the Atlanta Braves down in Georgia.

"He's just not ready today, but we're going to do this (as) a day-by-day thing," Maddon said. "I really don't know. If I had to guess, probably not tomorrow, too. And possibly on Sunday, but I really don't know.

"He healed well with the ankle, we did not expect that to come back very quickly and it did. So I'm just trying to not jump to conclusions right now."

"It's sore. It's just a soreness and he's got to grip the bat, and that's what it really comes down to."

The Cubs have suddenly closed within a game of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers after winning the first six games out of the All-Star break. Certainly losing Bryant for any time, no matter how brief, is a blow to the Cubs' lineup — and their rampage up the NL Central standings — but things could be way worse. A day-to-day situation is preferable to Bryant and his .401 on-base percentage heading for a lengthy stay on the disabled list.

Bryant's absence Friday meant right fielder Jason Heyward was at the top of the Cubs' lineup. It's just the third time Heyward has started in the leadoff spot since joining the Cubs. He was 0-for-7 in those two starts in June of last year.

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In addition to Bryant, there was an update of sorts on injured starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who could return to the rotation next week, per Maddon.

"More than likely next week, probably early next week. We're looking at that, but we're really not ready to make any other kinds of conclusions or announcements yet," Maddon said. "He's there. He's ready to rock n roll."

Hendricks' return to the rotation will be another shot in the arm for a starting staff that just received a huge upgrade in the form of Jose Quintana. Hendricks has been on the disabled list since June 8, when he went on the shelf with tendinitis in his right hand.

Hendricks logged 8.1 innings in two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee recently, going 15 up, 15 down in his second outing. It sounds like he'll pitch in one of the four games against the White Sox next week.

Adding Hendricks and Quintana to a rotation featuring Jon Lester and an improving Jake Arrieta figures to make for a far different starting-pitching picture in the second half of the season following an inconsistent first half.

Will Cubs add another ace? Report says North Siders interested in Yu Darvish

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USA TODAY

Will Cubs add another ace? Report says North Siders interested in Yu Darvish

It's been a little more than a week since the Cubs altered the state of their pitching staff for years to come with that blockbuster crosstown swap that brought Jose Quintana to the North Side.

But are the Cubs looking to make another massive upgrade to their starting rotation before the trade deadline?

According to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, the Cubs are interested in Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish.

Now it might not make too much sense at first blush for the Cubs, who dealt away their top two minor leaguers in the trade for Quintana, to acquire another frontline starting pitcher, especially one who unlike Quintana will become a free agent at the end of the season. After all, if the Cubs do want Darvish in the long term, they can wait a few months and go after him in free agency, losing no assets but money in the process.

The Cubs' rotation, once Kyle Hendricks returns from the disabled list, also looks pretty set with Jon Lester, Quintana, Jake Arrieta, Hendricks and John Lackey the presumed quintet for the remainder of the regular season, barring any other injuries of course.

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But Morosi makes some points, even if they might be speculative ones, that make a trade for Darvish seem not so ridiculous. After all, the Cubs did so much for their future in acquiring Quintana that a rental like Darvish to power a second straight run to the World Series might not seem so risky.

And while the Cubs' rotation is looking good right now with the team winners of six straight since the All-Star break, it was perhaps the team's biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half. Arrieta and Hendricks both failed to replicate the consistency that made them two of baseball's best last season. And Lackey has struggled mightily, still the owner of 5.04 ERA and a guy who's given up the 25 homers, the second most in baseball.

If the National League Central race remains as tight as it is entering play today, with four teams within four and a half games of each other, perhaps adding an extra dominant starter would assure the top spot in the division, which could be the team's only path to the playoffs. Even after a six-game winning streak to start the second half, the Cubs are five and a half games back of the Colorado Rockies for the NL's second wild card spot.

There's no doubt Darvish has been very good this season for the Rangers, with a 3.45 ERA in 20 starts and 131 strikeouts in 125.1 innings pitched. He's a four-time All Star in his five-year major league career. Adding that to Lester and Quintana at the front of the rotation would make the Cubs a terrifying force for opposing teams.

But at the same time, what would it take to get him? Giving up zero major league talent was part of what made the Quintana trade so terrific for the Cubs. Losing a major league player would perhaps hurt the team's chances at a World Series win this season, which would be the whole point of acquiring Darvish in the first place.

It's trade season, so let the rumors keep flying.