Oct 4, 2014; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Stanford Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-14. (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — After beating Stanford 17-14 Saturday afternoon it raises the question is Notre Dame a legitimate title contender?
The Irish pulled out a gritty last-minute victory in the rain Saturday afternoon to beat the No. 13 Cardinal and move to a perfect 5-0 on the season. This was the biggest test so far for Notre Dame in their quest for a National Championship. The Irish are just 0ne of nine teams left undefeated. They also got some help along the way with three top five teams losing this weekend. (Alabama, Oklahoma, and Oregon). Notre Dame has jumped up to No. 6 in the AP poll this week. Coach Brian Kelly however is trying to downplay the game as just another win.
“I don’t know. I don’t think we beat a top 10 team did we? They’ll come up with something next week, which is fine, you know.” Kelly said when asked about the rankings.
This was no question a statement game for quarterback Everett Golson who showed poise and toughness to lead the Irish on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter against the top-ranked defense in the country. Golson struggled most of the game, not being able to adjust to the rain, but figured it out at the right time; completing a game-winning touchdown pass on fourth-and-11 to tight end Ben Koyack.
“You know, he’s a winner. I mean, I don’t know what his numbers are, but he’s like 15-1 as a starter. And I don’t know how many games he lost in high school but he didn’t lose many in high school either. So the kid’s a winner and he keeps competing and he keeps playing.” Kelly said.
The improvement from Golson has been the biggest key to the success of this Irish football team. Two years ago Golson was a game manager who went along for the ride to the National Championship. This year Golson is the clear-cut leader of this team and is in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
“It feels pretty different. Just because how I guess the way it happened. 2012 was a big moment as well, with the (indiscernible), but this is definitely a really big moment for me.” Golson Said.
Two seasons ago Kelly may have gone to the bullpen and brought in veteran quarterback Tommy Rees, but on Saturday Kelly had all the confidence in the world that his quarterback would lead them to a win.
“He’s better. There’s no question. It’s the maturity and the development and he’s the guy that’s gotta do it. We’re not going to the bullpen. Tommy Rees is not coming in. He is our guy and he’s got to come through. When he gets in this situation, I think he’s going to be even better than he was today.” Kelly said.
Notre Dame still has a tough road ahead of them if they want to accomplish their goal of winning the National Championship, but this was a good first step. In two weeks the Irish will face their biggest challenge of the season facing the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles. So far though Notre Dame has positioned itself to be a legitimate title contender.