SOUTH BEND, Ind. – BYU worked this week getting ready to face both Notre Dame quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees today.
Turns out Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff should have been considering a third option.
Coach Brian Kelly added more intrigue into the Notre Dame quarterback situation Thursday evening by saying he wouldn’t decide on a starter for the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish (6-0) until game time, and added the choice might be Andrew Hendrix. The Irish have been using Golson as a starter and Rees as the closer with great success.
The cause of Kelly’s uncertainty is a concussion sustained by Golson on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Stanford. Golson has been cleared to play, but Kelly wants more time to evaluate whether the sophomore is ready.
BYU (4-3) enters the game with the nation’s fifth-rated defense giving up an average of 261 yards a game even after No. 8 Oregon State amassed 450 yards total offense against the Cougars last week. Mendenhall is looking for his defense to bounce back.
“I’m anxious to perform how our defense performed the first six weeks, not the last week. That’s my main focus right now, getting them to perform again the way I know they’re capable,” he said.
The Cougars gave up 42 points last week against an Oregon State team that was using backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who hadn’t started since he was in high school.
BYU could be facing the same scenario today if the Irish start Hendrix, the backup last season.
Hendrix, a strong runner, has appeared in six games the past two seasons, completing 22 of 42 passes for 302 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 189 yards on 31 carries, or 6.1 yards a carry.
BYU also could face Rees, a less mobile quarterback who had 17 starts and knows the Irish offense the best. He helped lead the Irish to late-game victories over Purdue and Stanford and replaced a struggling Golson in the second quarter against Michigan.
“I think more than anything it’s supporting my teammates and trying to give them the best,” Rees said. “They look to me when I come in and I can’t let them down. We have to find a way to win the game.”
The Cougars have quarterback issues as well. Riley Nelson threw three interceptions against Oregon State after missing the previous two games with a back injury and argued with offensive coordinator Brandon Doman on the sideline during the game. Mendenhall said he has confidence in Nelson, saying he improves BYU.
“But we do need to take better care of the football,” Mendenhall said.
Notre Dame’s defense is ranked 11th nationally, giving up 287 yards per game.