SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Everett Golson and Malik Zaire will both play quarterback when Notre Dame faces No. 22 LSU in the Music City Bowl, with coach Brian Kelly saying he believes they can both help the Irish against the nation’s best pass defense.
“I think both have some different traits and we need a way to win the game,” Kelly said Monday evening after the team completed its third practice for the Dec. 30 game. “I think both of them can help us win.”
Golson helped Notre Dame get to the national championship game two years ago and started all 12 games for the Irish (7-5) this season, but has thrown 14 interceptions and fumbled the ball away eight times. He was replaced by Zaire, a sophomore, late in the first half in the regular-season finale against USC with Notre Dame down 35-0. Zaire led the Irish on a pair of scoring drives in 49-14 loss, completing nine of 20 passes for 170 yards.
Kelly had originally said there would be a competition to determine who would play in the bowl game, but decided using both would give the Irish the best chance against the Tigers. He said with Notre Dame’s defense is struggling, giving up 30 or more points for a school-record seven straight games, losing the last four, the Irish offense needs to keep LSU’s offense off the field.
“Both have skill sets that are a little bit different that we’ll use in the game,” Kelly said. “We’ll go with their strengths and call upon those strengths in the game. I feel very confident I can manage both of them.”
He said it won’t be a matter of pulling one for the other if the team isn’t moving. He said there will be a specific plan on when to use each.
Golson, a right-hander, has more experience and is the better passer “and is capable of some big plays”, while Zaire, a left-hander, is better with the read-option, Kelly said.
“We think there’s more than that, they can both complement themselves in other areas,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Golson has reacted well to the news, saying that he wouldn’t be an option if he didn’t show a willingness to work to get better.
“He’s handled it great. He’s doing exactly what I’m asking him to do on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said.