Irish won’t even let LSU have a QB controversy in peace

Published 8:23 am Monday, December 29, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Dang that Notre Dame.

It’s not enough that it’s got its own network, NBC, at its beck and call.

You know how the Fighting Irish are. Can’t stand it if they’re out of the spotlight for a single minute.

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So the Irish come to the Music City Bowl and immediately rain on LSU’s Quarterback Dilemma.

Never mind that it’s been raining the real stuff virtually non-stop since both teams arrived.

This is a little much.

The Tigers virtually invented the dreaded quarterback controversy, and have spent most of this season fine-tuning it in front of a disgruntled fan base.

They took it to new levels with the inability to complete the simple forward pass. They upped the ante. They had quarterback woes the likes of which no self-respecting balanced offense should ever have to deal with.

Anthony Jennings’ struggles and Brandon Harris’ inactivity are starting to make the old Jordan Jefferson-Jarrett Lee fiasco look like peace and harmony.

Nobody thought that was possible.

But it lingered, festering for a good month amid leaks that Harris has been encouraging during the break, not be outdone by Jennings’ continued progress.

It made for a dandy talking point while trying to stay dry and warm in the days leading up to tomorrow’s showdown.

But now, the powerful Notre Dame publicity machine has rolled into town and tried to one-up the Tigers.

Irish players burp in public and it can become a national story.

So it was pretty simple. All Notre Dame had to do was come up with its own quarterback decision for the game, and suddenly LSU’s struggles were yesterday’s news.

More than likely it’s as big of a sham as any implied notion that Harris will see any more playing time (none) than he has over the last half of the season.

But it’s Notre Dame, and while it took some scrambling, the Irish appear to have successfully one-upped LSU’s cry for attention.

Notre Dame won’t even name its starter at the position until the Irish trot out for the first possession.

The White House is probably monitoring the situation. CNN and Entertainment Tonight are standing by.

Everett Golson or Malik Zaire.

On the surface, it doesn’t look like much.

Golson, the starter two years when the Irish were crunched up by Alabama for the BCS national championship, was forced to sit out last season when he ran afoul of school policy.

But he did his due penance, was back this year, and in fact started all 12 of the 7-5 Fighting Irish’s games.

Even had Florida State on the ropes for a spell until the Irish provided a textbook example of offensive pass interference. He was on the watch lists for some of the big awards.

So what’s the big deal?

Why are the Irish playing coy and threatening to start Zaire? He’d never thrown a college pass until Notre Dame’s last game, and he didn’t exactly light up Southern Cal. He still hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass.

Yet, head coach Brian Kelly has even turned the indecision into a knock-knock joke.

It has become such an obsession with the media that cover Notre Dame that there seems to be no other story line.

Every Irish player gets the question — and they stay mum, insisting they don’t know (and if they did, and they told you, they’d have to kill you).

Kelly doesn’t want that, of course. Hence the knock-knock joke.

Who’s there?

Finally Kelly told everybody, with a wink, that he’d knock once if it was Golson, knock twice it was Zaire.

Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, it got a lot of belly laughs.

Kelly may or may not have reached his breaking point with Golson in the Irish’s 49-14 loss to Southern Cal.

Golson was fine early in the season, when Lou Holtz was proclaiming the Irish the nation’s No. 1 team, but his rocky second half mirrored Notre Dame’s slide from 6-0 to dropping five of its last six games.

Or did it?

True, Golson had become a turnover machine over the second half.

But when he threw an interception and lost a fumble against USC, it gave 22 turnovers for the season, 14 interceptions, eight lost fumbles. Kelly called on Zaire, whose 9-of-20 performance out of the bullpen was apparently enough to spark a full-blown debate which has raged all through December.

Or perhaps a smoke screen.

The Irish’s real problem, it appears, was an injury-depleted defense that gave up 30 or more points in its last seven games, which has to look appetizing even to LSU’s quarterback situation.

Three key starters are out of sick bay and back for tomorrow’s bowl game, but the less anybody talks about that, apparently, the better for Kelly.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at