November 11, 2014

(AP) - Everett Golson looked downfield against Syracuse, saw all five Notre Dame receivers covered so he scrambled to his left, ran down the sideline for a 22-yard gain - and fumbled when he was hit.

Up until that first possession of the fourth game, Golson hadn't turned the ball over. He and Oregon's Marcus Mariota were the only two players in the FBS through three games who had accounted for 10 touchdowns and hadn't turned the ball over.

Golson hasn't been able to hold onto the ball since.

He's fumbled the ball away six times in six games and put it on the ground two other times that the Irish recovered. He has thrown 11 interceptions for a total of 17 turnovers. Eighty-seven FBS teams have 17 or fewer.

Golson and the 15th-ranked Irish (7-2) will try to make some improvements Saturday against visiting Northwestern (3-6), which has struggled but ranks 20th in the country with 11 interceptions.

Coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday he was pleased to see Golson take responsibility for the five turnovers against then-No. 11 Arizona State after last Saturday's 55-31 loss, but said he isn't alone in the blame.

''There are 10 other guys that have a lot to do with those turnovers,'' Kelly said. ''He's got 10 other players that have to do their job, and they've got to do their job better.''

Kelly was also happy that Golson didn't point fingers for the turnovers, but the coach pointed out mistakes others made. He blamed the first turnover on tight end Ben Koyack and tailback Tarean Folston missing blocks. He blamed the second turnover on someone failing to block the defensive lineman who batted the pass that was intercepted.

Golson is clearly to blame for some turnovers, though, such as when he was hit against Syracuse. Later against the Orange he was trying to spike the ball with six seconds left in the first half but it slipped out of his hand. He also fumbled against Arizona State when he was spun around and was holding the ball too loosely, which the Irish recovered, and another time when he tried to catch his balance with his left hand on the ground and the ball in his right hand and fumbled it away.

''I think it's the competitor in me, really. I'm just trying to just not give up on the play,'' Golson said after the loss.

Golson said he needs to trust in the coaches and understand what they want.

''I guess there were times where I thought that was the right read, probably thought it was one of the better plays, and it's obviously not what they wanted,'' he said. "We just got to clean it up.''

Of the 11 interceptions Golson has thrown, seven have come on blitzes. Kelly said there are a variety of reasons why the Irish are having trouble dealing with pressure, such as tailbacks missing blocks, Golson holding the ball too long and receivers not always running the correct routes.

''It's not just on an offensive line's inability to pick up pressure. There's more to it than that. That's why we're not pressing the alarm button on our offensive line in this instance,'' Kelly said. ''There are so many little factors that have to get better across the board.

''There are going to be some mistakes made within the structure of our offense, but they can't be careless. Then we've got to do a great job of putting him in a good position, and that's on me as a coach. So we've got some work to do to clean it up.''

That work begins against the Wildcats, who dropped their fourth straight last Saturday after coach Pat Fitzgerald decided to attempt a two-point conversion rather than kick an extra point and head into overtime.

Michigan beat Northwestern 10-9 after Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian slipped attempting the conversion at the end of the game. Siemian had just connected with Tony Jones on a 3-yard pass to make it a one-point game with three seconds left.

Rather than try for the tie, Northwestern went for the win.

"If it had worked, you guys would have been, `Oh my gosh! What a call!` That's the way it works. That's football. I get it," Fitzgerald said. "But our kids responded. They played their tails off. I know this. Some guys alluded that our guys would fold it and pack it in. I think they proved a lot of people wrong and I'm proud of them for that. And I think they'll continue to fight."

Notre Dame leads the all-time series 37-8-2, but in the last meeting the visiting Wildcats upset the No. 9 Irish 17-15 to open the 1995 season.

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