SOUTH BEND, IN (Toledo News Now) - Fans threw a welcome back party for Notre Dame Quarterback Everett Golson on Saturday as Golson and the Irish ran past Rice 48-17. Irish fans were happy to see the Myrtle Beach native return to the field 2 seasons after he led the team to a national championship game.
Golson, who did not play last season because of an academic violation, ran for three TDs and threw two more in the season opener. Golson wasn't the entire Irish offense, but it was close. The Irish featured three backs through the game, with Tarean Folston leading the way with 71 yards on 12 carries. Greg Byrant also rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown, getting 8 handoffs. Caption Cam McDaniel got 8 touches for 47 yards.
Even as the Irish got their star QB back, they lost several other players in a similar situation to the incident which cost Golson the chance to play last year. Starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell, starting receiver DaVaris Daniels and starting defensive end Ishaq Williams, as well as linebacker Kendall Moore and safety Eilar Hardy, have all been suspended as the university investigates reports of academic dishonesty.
None of those players are expected to take the field next week against Michigan.
The Irish defense will face a stronger challenge in that game than it saw from Rice. The defense looked stout in both pass and run coverage Saturday, with the exception of one long Rice TD in the first quarter.
The Irish answered quickly though, to go up 14-7. Golson never looked back, leading the Irish on a 38-3 run which stretched into the fourth quarter.
Fans got a glimpse of what may be the future of Notre Dame football, when redshirt freshman Malik Zaire ripped off a 56 yard run on his first snap in a college game.
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly seemed pleased to have Golson back on the field in a post-game press conference.
"Obviously the story of Golson was electric. He kept his eyes downfield. Knew when to run, knew when to throw it, and those are things we really talked about," said Kelly.
All in all, the Irish looked strong against a Conference USA opponent on Saturday. The true test comes on August 6 under the lights when Big Ten Michigan comes to South Bend. That game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tune in to WTOL 11 for highlights and more.