Everett Golson's legs proving more valuable

Brian Kelly couldn't help but smile at the follow-up question.

Yes, the third-year Notre Dame coach was pleased with his quarterback's decision to take the ball himself on a two-point conversion Saturday, tying a Pitt team the Irish would eventually defeat in triple overtime.

"Absolutely, very good on that one," Kelly said of Everett Golson's improvisation. "I wasn't going to pull him out after that play."

Golson won Saturday's game for Notre Dame with his legs as much as his arm, and those appendages have become increasingly more important as the Irish have loosened the reins on the redshirt freshman.

Golson netted a career-best 74 yards on the ground, the last of which came on his 1-yard, game-winning plunge in triple overtime. He has rushed for 230 yards in his past four games, this after having minus-11 yards rushing through the season's first four games.

"I would say this: That we weren't sure about his durability," Kelly said Sunday. "We weren't sure about whether we wanted to really run him a lot. As we've seen him progress, it's pretty clear now that we've amped it up in terms of run plays called. Early on, we were hesitant. We weren't really sure, we were worried about ball security and we still aren't.

"As the season has progressed, we've looked at him a little different in terms of running him."

Golson's biggest progress may be in ball protection.

He fumbled it away three times against Stanford and once against Purdue but has not lost it since, earning a little bit more leeway each time he takes the field.

"I think we're more pleased that he's actually putting the ball and properly carrying the football," Kelly said. "He's not carrying it like a loaf of bread. It's not in one hand. He still has a tendency to do that. But he's taken to coaching. He knows how important it is that ball security is crucial to our success. So he's taken coaching. We're not there yet, but he's definitely making progress in that end."

Golson was replaced by Tommy Rees at points midway through Saturday's game before re-entering for good in the third quarter. Rees has come in during every single home game so far this season — be it for performance or injury reasons — but Kelly said Sunday that the leash may just lengthen a little bit moving forward after Golson stayed mentally checked in and bounced back late.

"To be honest, I was a little upset just because of the competitor in me just wanted to be out there," Golson said after the game of getting pulled. "But I think it was good for me that I actually saw it this time. I think previously in the beginning of the year, I come out and they would end up telling me, but I think that just comes from a lot of film study with coaches. You know, actually seeing my mistakes and kind of seeing it in the sidelines and seeing what they were doing kind of helped me come back and lead."