NOTRE DAME, Ind. - There was no four-headed quarterback battle this time. There was no real drama to the 84rh annual Blue-Gold Game on Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium. There were, however, plenty of reps for Notre Dame's quarterbacks and players throughout the roster.
The score of the game, as with all spring games, was completely irrelevant. It was offense versus defense in a scoring format that fans in the stands had no way to discern. Most of the scoring was standard for the offense - three points for a field goal and six points for a touchdown with standard extra points, but there were other rules and scoring created by Brian Kelly and his coaching staff.
The offense received two points for a "big chunk" pass of 20-plus yards as well as two points for a "big chunk" run of 15-plus yards. Two points was also awarded when the offense converted first downs on two consecutive plays.
Meanwhile, the defense earned four points for a stop shy of the 50-yard line, two points for a stop after the 50, seven points for a forced turnover before the 50, three points for forcing a TO after the 50, one point for forcing a field goal (whether it was made or missed), and two points for forcing the offense to go three-and-out.
Incumbent starting quarterback led two first quarter drives, as did his competition for the job last fall - Andrew Hendrix. None of the possessions amounted to any real offense. Tommy Rees led the deepest drive of the quarter when he guided the offense (which wore white) as far as the Blue 17-yard line before a 39-yard Nick Tausch field goal failed to sail through the crossbars.
Golson's first drive was a three-and-out that netted just three yards. His second drive, which crossed over into the second quarter, went backwards and ended when he was sacked by Kona Schwenke for a 16-yard loss.
Rees led the Gold on a drive to the 22-yard line on his second series of the game. The big play was a 22-yard pass to tight end Troy Niklas. Tausch finished it this time with a 40-yard field goal.
Golson showed both good and bad on his next trip to the field. He connected with DaVaris Daniels for a 21-yard pass play to the Blue 14. He showed his athleticism by extended the play when he rolled right before throwing. Just two plays later though he was intercepted by Matthias Farley at the goal line with no receivers in the area.
Hendrix began the next offensive series, but it didn't last long. Cam McDaniel was tackled for a safety by Ben Councell on just the second play of the drive. The defense did not receive the standard two points for the safety, but received four points for stopping the offense short of the 50.
A 31-yard field goal by Tausch was the net result of Golson's final first half drive. Golson hit Niklas with a 24-yard pass on the possession, but he also overthrew an open Daniels in the back of the end zone. Golson was 6-for-13 for 98 yards in the first half (all of his completions were in the second quarter). He was also sacked three times.
Rees was 4-of-7 in the half for 64 yards, while Hendrix was 3-of-5 for 22 yards (all in the first quarter). Neither Golson nor Rees saw action in the second half, which featured a continuously running clock. Early enrollee Malik Zaire took the majority of the second half snaps.
Zaire got his first Notre Dame Stadium action when he led the Gold offense on the first drive of the second half. The speedster ran a speed option to the left for a gain of four yards on his first play. He completed a dump-off to running back Will Mahone on the next play, but that was the last positive play of the drive.
Kyle Brindza, who is expected to do double-duty as Notre Dame's kicker and punter in 2013, shanked his punt for a net of just 11 yards.
Zaire stayed at the offensive helm for the next series, but nothing went right. He rolled to his left and was sacked by Tony Springmann for a 14-yard loss. He was intercepted by walk-on linebacker Joe Schmidt two plays later.
Hendrix was back with the offense for the next series. The senior to be ran for eight yards on his first play and hit Eric Lee for an eight-yard gain two plays later. Tausch would cap the series with a 36-yard field goal.
Hendrix started the fifth drive of the second half, but was replaced by Zaire on third and 10 at the Blue 35. Zaire fired a laser to CJ Prosise to his left for the game's first touchdown. Nose guard Louis Nix lined-up in the shotgun at quarterback on the extra point try and stumbled across the goal line for the conversion after running up the middle.
Walk-on Charlie Fiessinger saw the field in the game's waning moments. The junior from Mason, OH was incomplete on all three of his pass attempts.
The Blue (defense) was the victor on the scoreboard over the Gold with a 54-43 score.