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Golson’s improvement means less playing time for Rees

Updated: January 8, 2013 1:25AM

There will come a time — eventually, presumably, probably — when Everett Golson won’t have to look over his shoulder to see if Tommy Rees is warming up on the sideline.

There will be a time when Golson can make a bad check at the line, misread a defense, throw an interception or fumble the ball and not jog to the sideline wondering if Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will yank him from the game and insert Rees, the Lake Forest High School grad who started the last two years but now is the backup.

That time is not here yet.

But after a strong performance at Oklahoma and a resilient return from a benching against Pittsburgh, it’s getting closer.

“I don’t know how to answer the question definitively,” Kelly said after the triple-OT win over Pitt. “I just get a sense of feel on the sideline as to where to move with that.”

Kelly feels more comfortable with letting Golson play through his struggles after his performance against Pitt.

After being benched for three series — the third time this season he has been pulled based on Kelly’s “feel” rather than an injury — Golson returned and led the Irish back from a 20-6 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, bouncing back from an end-zone interception in between and scoring the game-winning touchdown on a one-yard plunge in the third OT.

For Golson’s psyche, it was almost as big as the Oklahoma win.

“I think I needed it bad,” he said.

For Kelly’s trust in his quarterback, it might have been even bigger.

“His ability to get back up off the bench — it had never happened before,” Kelly said. “Now you’ve got a bit of history. ‘All right, we’ve got a rough spot here. Let’s fight through this. You’ve done this before.’ ”

For his teammates’ confidence in him, it was just the latest sign that the redshirt freshman is up to the task.

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