Golson, Notre Dame seeking discipline in opener against Navy

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Golson, Notre Dame seeking discipline in opener against Navy

All eyes will be on Everett Golson Saturday morning, as the sophomore quarterback makes his collegiate debut against Navy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. But he won't be the only one on Notre Dame playing his first game at the NCAA level.

Most, if not all of, Notre Dame's young group of wide receivers -- Davonte Neal, Chris Brown, Justin Ferguson and Da'Varis Daniels -- should see playing time. Tight end Troy Niklas, who played as a linebacker last year, could make his debut on the offensive side of the ball. And true freshman KeiVarae Russell, who came to Notre Dame as a running back, will start at cornerback.

"It can all be decided and look perfect in practice, and when the lights go on -- we all know from being around this game that, when the lights go on, kids react differently," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said, referencing Notre Dame's quarterbacks earlier in August. "Some kids play better than they ever play, and some kids play worse."

Golson's performance will carry the most weight. While coach Brian Kelly and his coaching staff would like to stick with the same quarterback from Week 1 through bowl season, a change does exist as a possibility. But Kelly sounded like he'll be a little more patient with Golson than he was last year with Dayne Crist, who was yanked after two quarters in Notre Dame's season-opening loss to South Florida.

"Let's make it clear, (Golson) will make mistakes," Kelly said. "I think if we really look carefully at the mistakes that we made (last year), they were turnovers in the red zone. They were turnovers in the end zone, they were heightened within the game. He's going to make some mistakes, and we know that and we are going to have to obviously try to overcome those. But it's those poor decisions that we have to eradicate."

Defensively, Navy may be a good team for Golson and the Irish offense to open his college career against. The Midshipmen lost three of their top cornerbacks and a trio of defensive ends from their 2011 squad, which struggled on defense to begin with. Pressure often begets mistakes, and if Golson can stay poised, Kelly expects him to succeed.

"Our entire offensive staff feels as though he's disciplined in his approach, that he understands the routine of the quarterback position that he's going to minimize the mistakes," Kelly said. "He's shown that over the past month. If he's not out of character on Saturday, I will safely say he will do a very good job of taking care of the football."

For Russell, the Navy matchup could be even more favorable. The Midshipmen only attempted 135 passes in 12 games last season, and their leading receiver won't play Saturday. Comparatively, perhaps it's a positive for Russell's confidence to be introduced to college football against an option offense that rarely throws the ball.

"Yeah, that's one way to look at it," Kelly said with a wry grin. "But if you're not disciplined, the ball goes over your head like that.

"We think he's got the ability to do the job against Navy, a different job than it will be against Purdue, but we think he's got that ability to do the job. I don't want to say pick your poison, but they are so different in terms of the roles that he's going to be asked to be performing. We would not put him in this position if we didn't think he would perform this role."

That's not to say Russell won't be tested -- it just might come in a different form. Navy's option can drive defenses mad, and often times it's like a 99-mile-per-hour fastball in baseball: You know what's coming, but that doesn't mean you'll succeed against it.

"Thats the challenge, you know what theyre going to do," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "They know that you know. You always have to stay disciplined, keep your eyes on your key, keep your eyes on your guy and take care of your responsibility. When somebody doesnt do their responsibility, they get out of their fit, they lose their eyes, thats when big things happen for Navy."

One thing that Notre Dame players didn't expect to be an issue -- at least, before they left for Dublin on Wednesday -- was the time-zone change. An 8 a.m. (CST) kickoff is three hours before the usual early-kickoff start time of 11 a.m., but Irish captain Zack Martin didn't expect a few messed up internal clocks to hinder Notre Dame's chances.

"I know that the coaches will do a great job letting us rest," Martin said on Tuesday. "Like coach Kelly said and like weve all said, if we cant get up for our opener, were in the wrong business."

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Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.