Notre Dame's Golson's progress makes Kelly's day
Specifically, No. 1 quarterback Everett Golson not only making it through a week of practice without a new physical malady, but taking a stride forward in his overall game.
"I really liked the way he practiced -- confident, moving, running around, throwing the ball with authority," Kelly, 51, said of the 6-foot, 185-pound sophomore, slated to make his sixth career start Saturday night, at eighth-ranked Oklahoma (5-1).
"We're probably all at that stage of, 'OK, when's it going to happen? When's it all really going to come together?' I think we're all waiting, and it's going to.
"It hasn't yet, but he's starting to put together multiple practices in a row where I leave practice and go, 'Boy when this thing comes together, it's going to be pretty exciting.' "
Golson missed last Saturday's 17-14 survival of BYU, which didn't cost the fifth-ranked Irish (7-0) in the polls or BCS standings but seemed to erode their street cred with the national media and Vegas odds-makers. Oklahoma opened as an 81/2-point favorite, an advantage that has now swelled to 11.
"When I look back on it, it was the right thing to do to really give him that week to kind of get over the hump," Kelly said of holding Golson out last week and giving the start to junior Tommy Rees.
Rees, a reliever for most of this season, was 7-of-16 for 117 yards and one touchdown with one interception in his most extensive action since the 2011 season. He took all but two snaps for the Irish against the Cougars.
Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix's response about how to stop Oklahoma's Bell-dozer package quickly degenerated into a plea for the 6-foot-3, 340-pound junior to have his own offensive package for the Irish.
Bell, incidentally, is Oklahoma's 6-6, 254-pound sophomore backup quarterback. He has run for 21 touchdowns in a 13-game span, dating back to last season, primarily in goal-line situations.
Nix, self-dubbed "Irish Chocolate," has zero career offensive touches.
"One of these days, (Brian Kelly) might come around," he said. "He'll give me the ball. I don't know, fourth-and-one. When I do it then, he'll just keep giving it to me. I might even be able to throw it around a little bit. We'll see."
It's all academic
Notre Dame is the 2012 national champion for graduating its student-athletes in all sports for the sixth straight year -- in the process posting the top NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figure (99) for its student-athletes.
The GSR number for all Notre Dame student-athletes rated the Irish first among the 120 football-playing institutions in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). The 2012 NCAA figures are based on entering classes from 2002 through 2005.
Among teams in the latest AP Top 25 poll, ND (97 percent) and Saturday's opponent Oklahoma fell at the extreme ends of the spectrum. The Sooners' grad rate for football was 47 percent.
Top 10 history
Saturday night's showdown with eighth-ranked Oklahoma will be the 90th game in ND's history in which both teams were ranked in the top 10.