(MCT) — SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As he recalled his satisfaction with both the scope and timing of the first-half fireworks show Saturday, Everett Golson lamented the one misfire: An off-the-back-foot, into-double-coverage, jump-ball-to-a-pint-sized receiver throw that, go figure, wound up in the wrong hands.
“Talk about that interception,” Notre Dame’s sophomore quarterback said. “It was a terrible decision, really terrible decision. I kind of came to the line and looked like a rookie a little bit.”
It was a mistake borne of overconfidence and swagger, and it provided an important lesson: The Notre Dame offense actually has overconfidence and swagger.
There is still reason to question if a 38-point, 584-yard detonation against Wake Forest can be standard operating procedure for the No. 1 Irish against USC and then perhaps again in a national title game. But at least it’s a discussion now.
The win against Wake Forest made it two 500-yard outings in three games (though three overtimes against Pittsburgh helped). During one stretch earlier this season, Notre Dame didn’t crack the 400-yard barrier in five of six outings. Playing softer defenses helps, but confidence is confidence.
“We felt like every time we came in on Sunday and Monday and had our meetings, we were saying the same things: ‘A lot of missed opportunities, we’re really close, let’s put it together this week, let’s put it together now this week,’ ” tight end Tyler Eifert said.
“Finally I think we put it all together. When we execute the way we should, we’re a pretty good offense.”
As ever, efficiency begins with Golson. He has consecutive games completing 60 percent of his attempts for the first time since Weeks 1 and 2, and he gleefully bragged about “acting a little like Peyton Manning” during practice last week, running up and down the line with pre-snap checks and demonstrating a command a long time coming.
“Most of the checks are something that we’ve never gone over or things like that,” Golson said. “Just showing that I actually had the concepts and knowing where I wanted to get the ball, that’s what (Irish coach Brian Kelly) was so proud of, me kind of progressing.”
Said Kelly: “The great thing about Everett is, he’s decided that these are the things that we’ve put to him that he’s got to get better at and he wants to get better at them.”
In doing so, Golson may have established a credit line with his teammates that — as unfailingly diplomatic as the veterans have been about it — didn’t exist for a while. At least gauging by those veterans’ assessments last weekend.
“He’s grown probably as much as anyone on this team,” tackle Zack Martin said. “If you were to come to us last spring and say Everett was going to do this, this season, I don’t think anyone would have thought that would happen. But he came into camp very determined and has grown every game. He’s a dominant player out there when he’s playing well.”
If Notre Dame isn’t necessarily a dominating offense as a result, it’s at least a competent one. That can be enough when complementing the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense.
It was, in fact, the perfect kind of offense-defense disconnect for the Irish on Saturday: The defense pitching a shutout, requiring the offense merely to manage a slow drip of scoring. Instead it loosed the floodwaters.
“We’ve talked all year about the defense is great, they do their job, we have to do something besides doing just enough to win the game,” Martin said. “All our coaches have been harping that it’s going to click, and I think the last couple weeks, it’s starting. It’s a good time of year to start clicking on offense.”