But when Notre Dame had to face a season without Golson, they turned to Rees – the veteran – and the fans tried to get behind him.
After Saturday’s 35-21 loss to Oklahoma, a game that included Rees completing just nine of his 24 passes for 104 yards and three interceptions, the Notre Dame fanbase is looking for new options and even resorting to asking the President of the United States to bench the senior (an unsuccessful, but entertaining measure).
It’s not like Notre Dame fans couldn’t have seen this coming.
One of the biggest knocks on Rees when he was the starter was lack of ball security. He earned the nickname “Turnover Tommy” for a reason. This year, he’s completing just 53.3 percent of his passes and has 10 touchdowns to five interceptions. And those picks have cost the Irish wins.
Coach Brian Kelly, on Sunday, gave Rees a vote of confidence, saying: "There's no question the quarterback that's gonna start for us is Tommy Rees."
The Irish do have other options. Andrew Hendrix, who was in the mix to start last year, has been the primary backup, but hasn’t shown much this season. But fans are clamoring to see Malik Zaire, a four-star prospect out of Ohio. However, Kelly is resisting the temptation to pull Zaire’s redshirt.
That’s probably a smart move since the Irish aren’t going to play in a BCS bowl anyway. No reason to pull a redshirt when Zaire might be a star for you during a resurgent 2014 campaign.
So, for now, Notre Dame fans are stuck with Turnover Tommy as a game against No. 22 Arizona State looms. It’s a game against another offense-heavy team. And if the Irish can’t get its own offense together, it’s going to produce another loss.
Despite fan ire, Irish players are still backing their starting quarterback.
"I don't think we're asking him to do too much at all," receiver TJ Jones told the Chicago Tribune. "Our offense is a lot, but Tommy is in my opinion the smartest quarterback in the nation. You could throw as much as you want at him, and he's going to be able to take it.
"It's more everybody working with Tommy. Some of the mistakes may seem like they're Tommy's fault, and they're the receivers' fault. It's everybody fine-tuning everything."
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