The turnover plague of 2011 came back to nearly ruin Notre Dame's perfect season Saturday, leaving another quarterback the subject of second-guessing following an overtime win over Stanford.
Everett Golson lost three fumbles before being knocked out with a concussion on the Irish's final drive of regulation. Golson is responsible for all seven of his team's turnovers this season -- three interceptions, four fumbles -- and the gaffes have his coach alarmed.
"Very concerned," Brian Kelly said Sunday. "It's something that obviously we cannot continue to have. He's got to take better care of the football, and he's got to do it in practice, and he's got to be smarter."
Golson, who picked up turf toe in the second quarter of last week's win against Miami, remains Kelly's guy after six career games, and he is expected to be cleared Tuesday after his concussion and return to work. Tommy Rees has yet to turn the ball over in mostly relief action after giving it away 20 times last season as a starter.
The biggest yip came in the second quarter, when Golson was drilled in his own end zone by Stanford's Ben Gardner, losing the ball. Chase Thomas dived on it for the Cardinal's only touchdown of the game, putting Notre Dame behind in a contest for the first time in 2012.
Golson coughed up the ball at the Stanford 12 after a 20-yard run in the third quarter, a play Kelly said the redshirt freshman should have rushed out of bounds on sooner, though replay showed he may have stepped out before the fumble.
Turnover No. 1 came on a bobbled exchange to Theo Riddick on Notre Dame's first drive, with Golson getting "credit" for the fumble despite what Kelly called a breakdown by multiple players.
"Well, there were three people involved in that: The center, the quarterback and the running back," Kelly said. "The snap was off and high to his right; the back was not in his proper alignment; and the quarterback, if ever he feels that a handoff is in jeopardy, he's supposed to tuck it. So there wasn't one singular player. There were three people that were not at their best on that play."
Still, the Irish's seven turnovers through six games pale in comparison to their 10 after two contests last year. They are tied for 19th in the nation in fewest turnovers lost, and they are 10th in the nation in turnover margin (1.33), as their defense came up with two more picks Saturday to give them 15 takeaways, one more than their season total from 2011.
"All of them are correctable, and we'll continue to work on it with him so we can eliminate these mistakes," Kelly said.