No. 15 Notre Dame working on stopping turnovers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (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 by a linebacker.
Up until that first possession of the fourth game, Golson hadn't turned the ball over this season. He and Oregon's Marcus Mariota were the only two players in 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 the ball 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 turnovers.
Coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday he was pleased to see Golson take responsibility for the five turnovers against Arizona State after the 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.''
It was a different tone than Kelly struck immediately after the game, when a reporter prefaced a question by saying not all the turnovers against Arizona State were on Golson.
''Why aren't they all on Golson?'' Kelly asked.
Kelly said Tuesday he was pleased 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 defensive lineman Demetrius Cherry, who batted the pass that was intercepted.
Golson is clearly to blame for some turnovers, though, such as when he was hit by the Syracuse linebacker. Later against Syracuse he was trying to spike the ball with six seconds left in the first half and the ball just slipped out of his hand. He also fumbled against Arizona State when cornerback Lloyd Carrington spun him around and he 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 though 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 at times 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.''
The 15th-ranked Irish (7-2) will try to make those improvements Saturday against Northwestern (3-6), which has struggled but ranks 20th in the country with 11 interceptions.
''There are going to be some mistakes made within the structure of our offense, but they can't be careless,'' Kelly said. ''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.''
Notes: Kelly says backup quarterback Malik Zaire will take over as the holder on field goal attempts after walk-on Hunter Smith failed to handle a snap against Arizona State. Smith also botched two holds earlier this season against Stanford.