SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold game on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) will look a little closer to an actual football game than a glorified scrimmage thanks to coach Brian Kelly’s decision to allow Everett Golson and Malik Zaire to be tackled.
While the officiating crew will have quick whistles and defensive players know not go headhunting, Golson and Zaire will be live while they’re playing in Saturday’s game. It’s a risk for them to be hit — a significant spring game injury to either would effectively end the competition coaches expect to run through August — but it’s a necessary one to take given how the two quarterbacks play.
“Both of those guys need to be who they are, and that’s who they are (taking contact),” Kelly said. “They’re guys that need to move in the pocket, they make plays with their feet and they both can run the football and we want to be able to run them both as well.”
Golson and Zaire have been live during a handful of days this spring, including the scrimmage portion of last Saturday’s practice. Zaire is the more natural running quarterback, so he’ll be able to showcase his physicality and vision in the ground game on Saturday. For Golson, it’s another opportunity to show he’s worked on his debilitating turnover issues from last year (he fumbled 12 times, losing eight).
Zaire’s played well in his two spring game appearances, throwing the only touchdown of 2013’s contest (which set up Louis Nix’s heroic dive into the end zone on a two-point conversion) and throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns in 2014. Golson hasn’t had a strong spring game since 2012, but there isn’t much to read into there given it’s just one of 15 practices allocated during March and April.
Kelly, though, praised Golson — who has declined to speak to the media over the last few weeks and put any transfer speculation to rest — for how he’s practiced and expects him to play well on Saturday.
“He’s had a really good spring,” Kelly said. “As we go into the game, if you look at his numbers last spring, he didn’t have a very good spring game. He’s had a really good spring and I expect him to have a really good spring game as well.”