- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Everett Golson keeps going back to Notre Dame's home opener, too.
The redshirt freshman emerged Saturday night from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the quarterback of an undefeated team, but he knows the process within this year alone was anything but easy.
Look no further than Week 2, when Golson was sacked five times before being pulled on the Irish's final drive of a 20-17 win over Purdue.
"I feel a lot more comfortable," Golson said of now. "I keep going back to the Purdue week. That was a lot for me, to be honest. But seeing how I've progressed now with the help of the coaches and the offensive line being with me and the wide receivers and the running backs, and also the guys on the defensive side instilling that confidence in me, [it] helped me out a lot."
Golson has won his first 10 starts, trailing just Bob Williams (11, 1949-50) for the school record to start a career. And yet he did not make it through a home game unscathed until senior day against Wake Forest, when he rested in the third quarter, up 31-0.
After being pulled from the Nov. 3 contest against Pitt, Golson re-entered in the third quarter. He led the Irish out of a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and overcame a late pick to eventually win in triple overtime. In the process, he earned himself more trust with the staff.
That was evident this past weekend, when he overcame cramping to rush nine times for 47 yards, never turning it over. Coach Brian Kelly said afterward that the Irish couldn't win Saturday had they not loosened the reins on their signal-caller, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 217 yards.
Through the season's first four games, Golson netted negative-11 yards on the ground. He has rushed for 316 yards in his seven since.
"I just think it's been a learning process," Kelly said. "We're still right in the mix. You're watching it. He's making better decisions with the football. I guess the difference is he's not careless with the football. Careless I can't take. He's going to make some bad decisions once in a while, but he's not careless with the football."
Since throwing two early picks in Week 4 against Michigan before getting pulled, Golson has thrown just two. He has not lost a fumble since coughing it up three times in Week 7 against Stanford, a game in which he was knocked out late with a conussion.
Now he's a win from a national title. And he has three years, or 40 potential starts, remaining in a Notre Dame uniform.
"It was a great feeling, knowing that everything you worked for in spring ball, everything you worked for in summer camp, it proved itself to be extremely worthwhile," Golson said of Saturday's win.