Kelly confirms Golson is the starter, but Rees could be the closer
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly would like for his starting quarterback to go the distance.
But as he showed in Saturday's 20-17 win over Purdue he's not afraid to go to the bullpen.
"We'd like our starters to finish the game," Kelly said Sunday, a day after he pulled redshirt freshman Everett Golson in favor of veteran Tommy Rees for the game-winning drive with two minutes left. "We'd like them to go all nine innings. But occasionally, you need help. You might need long relief, you might need short relief. I'm not taking anything off the table."
Kelly again made it clear that Golson is his starting quarterback, and will be under center when the No. 20 Irish visit No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday night. And while Kelly said Golson was upset about the two-minute drill decision, the coach isn't worried about his young quarterback's psyche.
"We're not going to be sending mixed messages," Kelly said. "There's got to be a trust factor there. ... If you only talk to him once a week, you'd probably have those concerns. But we have dinner together every day. There's constant communication."
Golson was sharp for most of the Purdue game, going 21-of-31 for 289 yards and a touchdown. But he lost a fumble at his own 15-yard line on a sack late in the fourth quarter, setting up Purdue's game-tying touchdown with 2:19 to go. Kelly said Golson hurt his thumb on the sack, but that he and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin already had decided to go with Rees for the two-minute drill.
"The knowledge of running our two-minute drill trumped any kind of injury that he may have had," Kelly said.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that every time a game comes down to one final drive, that Golson will give way to Rees.
"I don't see it as a role," Kelly said. "(But) if we feel like Tommy can help us win a game, or if he can come in in a situation we believe is the right fit, we'll do so."
Cierre Wood has lost his job as Notre Dame's No. 1 running back. Wood, the presumptive starter this season, was suspended for the first two games for an unspecified rules violation.
He'll be back for the Michigan State game, and he'll be in the rotation, but Theo Riddick -- who ran for 107 yards against Navy and 53 against Purdue -- is the new No. 1, according to Kelly.
"(We'll) reintegrate him," Kelly said of Wood. "He's a really good player. We like good players. We want to get him on the field and get him involved."
Sophomore Kyle Brindza, playing for the injured Nick Tausch (groin), missed a 40-yarder on his first career field-goal attempt on Saturday, but he bounced back by hitting the game-winning 27-yarder. Kelly is hopeful that Tausch can return by Tuesday's practice, but he's no longer the clear-cut field-goal kicker (Brindza had been handling only kickoffs).
"It'll be a competitive situation during the week," Kelly said.
The Irish had a long list of injuries in the Purdue game, but Kelly didn't expect anyone to miss the Michigan State game. Tyler Eifert (concussion) and safety Jamoris Slaughter (shoulder) already have been cleared, and Kelly expects Kapron Lewis-Moore (calf), Golson (thumb), DaVaris Daniels (ankle), Manti Te'o (sternum) and Sheldon Day (dehydration) to be fine.
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