A microcosm of Everett Golson's performance Saturday wasn't his successful scramble for a game-tying two-point conversion, or his game-winning plunge into the end zone. If you're looking for a representative play of the quarterback's up-and-down day, look no further than his 45-yard heave to DaVaris Daniels with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
After throwing what looked to be a debilitating interception in the end zone late in the fourth, Notre Dame had one final chance to march downfield to tie the game. With 3:03 left and the ball at midfield, Golson fired a 45-yard completion to DaVaris Daniels, setting up a five-yard toss to Theo Riddick to find the end zone in only two plays covering 52 seconds.
That pass to Daniels, though, stands out as a one-play showing of both the good and bad Golson displayed on Saturday.
Golson took the snap and drifted to his right, but didn't have an opening to hit either receiver on that side of the field. He danced back to his left and spotted Daniels in man-to-man coverage downfield and, from Notre Dame's own 38, chucked a pass toward No. 10 that was caught at Pitt's eight -- well over 50 yards in the air.
But had Golson not drifted right, he would've spied Daniels open much earlier in the play, making things a lot easier for Notre Dame.
"We would have liked to have thrown it a long time earlier than that when he was wide open," coach Brian Kelly explained after the game. "He didn't. He stayed alive, and he got the ball down the field. I mean, we're coming to understand that we're not perfect. But the kid competes, and he's got a strong arm. (He) put the ball in a good position, DD made a nice play on the ball and got us an opportunity to put some points on the board."
That kind of ad-libbing ability is a point in Golson's favor, even if it sometimes comes at the expense of finding Daniels when he was open earlier in the play. Golson's mobility allows him to make something out of nothing -- even if that's a self-inflicted situation.
"The whole week I've been kind of been on DaVaris about when a play breaks down improvise and just getting open, and he did it one time before," Golson explained. "But I was so fortunate that he did that. That's what I was trying to do was just improvise."
The Golson-Daniels connection was played up in spring and fall camp, with an expectation being set the two would transfer their good rapport from last year's scout team to Notre Dame's No. 1 offense in 2012. It's taken a little while, but the pair have been on the same page more in recent weeks, with Daniels' seven catches for 86 yards pacing Notre Dame receivers against Pittsburgh.
"In that instance I was just trying to make a play, a big play because we needed it," Daniels said. "And my first instinct was to go deep -- I looked to the left, I looked to the right and saw me and the other receivers were on the same plane, so I figured I would just go deep and see what happens."