Notre Dame has used five primary players in its backfield to date with sophomore running back George Atkinson receiving sporadic playing time since breaking free for 99 yards in the season opener vs. Navy.
Quarterback Everett Golson: Redshirt-freshman has accounted for five touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing) with four turnovers (3 INT, 1 fumble) in his first four career starts. Golson has completed passes of 41, 36 (TD), 35, 30, 29, 29, 25, 22 (twice), 21, and 20 yards among his 50 completions on the season. Among those 11 passes in excess of 20 yards were five different receivers. The first-year competitor has attempted just nine passes in the fourth quarter this season, completing four for 37 yards while being sacked twice and suffering a fumble. Golson didn't compete in the fourth quarter vs. Navy (blowout win) or Michigan (benched in the first half).
Quarterback Tommy Rees: Has connected on 11 of 17 throws for 150 yards without a touchdown or interception while also contributing the first rushing score of his Irish career: the game's only touchdown vs. Michigan. Rees led the Irish to a game-winning field goal on the offense's final drive, completing 3 of 6 passes for 35 yards to break a tie with Purdue in a 20-17 victory. The junior committed at least one turnover in 14 of his first 20 career outings entering the season but has been turnover-free in limited action to date this fall.
Running Back Cierre Wood: Has 17 rushes for 95 yards over the last two games after missing the season's first two wins due to suspension. Wood ranks ninth in program history with 47 receptions as a running back but has yet to catch a pass this season. His 26-yard cut-back run and 8-yard gain on 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter in East Lansing helped seal the victory vs. then-No. 10 Michigan State.
Running Back Theo Riddick: Leads the team in rushing yards (242) and yards from scrimmage (349) but hasn't hit pay dirt since notching the first two rushing scores of his college career vs. Navy in the season opener. Also the team leader in total pass targets (22) but has yet to break free in his opportunities, with long gains of 17 in both rushing and receiving yards.
Running Back George Atkinson III: Nine of his 19 carries, 99 of his 146 yards, and both of the touchdowns Atkinson has scored this fall occurred in the season's first three quarters during a 50-10 win over Navy in Dublin. Atkinson is the only Irish runner and one of two players with two plays from scrimmage in excess of 30 yards -- the sophomore gained 56 on a sprint-and-score vs. Navy and 32 on a mis-direction handoff at Michigan State. Atkinson added a 32-yard kickoff return to help set up the game-winning field goal vs. Purdue in Week Two. Has just 16 rushing yards on his last nine carries save for his aforementioned 32-yard burst vs. the Spartans.
Backfield Notes: Late-game Navy hero and aggressive runner Cam McDaniel has not appeared from scrimmage after accruing 79 yards on 10 touches vs. the Midshipmen, albeit in mop-up duty…Golson has rushed for two scores but has minus 11 yards on 21 official carries this fall: the negative number a result of five sacks suffered vs. Navy (1), Purdue (5), and MSU (1)…Third-string quarterback Andrew Hendrix has not appeared in a contest since the second half of the victory over Navy. Hendrix hit on 4 of 5 passes (with one drop) and gained 20 yards on the ground vs. the Middies…Rees has completed passes of 38, 24, and 21 yards among his 11 completions this season, each in the fourth quarter…Notre Dame's quarterbacks have rushed for just 8 scores in 30 games under head coach Brian Kelly, with current Kansas triggerman Dayne Crist accounting for four of the touchdowns in 2010.
Quote of Note: "It hasn’t been talked a lot about, but we were a heavy gap-pull team last year, and we are much more of an inside-outside zone team this year. The reads are very much different for the running back. You have to be so much more patient and we really spent this week on the patience for Cierre (Wood) in particular in our inside-outside zone game. He’s done a really nice job of that.
"The idiosyncrasies of it are really big. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say it takes more patience and we really focused on that more this week." -- Irish head coach Brian Kelly in his Thursday post-practice interview