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September 11, 2008After catching six passes for 93 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown reception against San Diego State, sophomore wide receiver Golden Tate has become an integral part of the Notre Dame offense.
The Tate of '08 is much improved over last year's version.
"You ever hear that phrase, running around like a chicken with its head cut off? That was Golden," said Irish offensive coordinator Mike Haywood of Tate last year.
Tate's head is now firmly attached to his neck, which is why he was able to catch six passes for 93 yards and a score, including several crucial passes that led to the go-ahead touchdown.
But there's more to it than that. Tate also showed a knack for coming back to the football to make catches against the Aztecs.
"I figured if I'm coming back to the ball, that doesn't give the DB a chance to intercept it or bat it down," Tate said. "I try to fight for every ball if I can get to it. Coming to the ball enabled me to catch some of the balls that might have been difficult if I just sat back."
Haywood sees Tate making his improvements on the practice field, which is now translating into game situations.
"Golden is getting a lot better," Haywood said. "(Receivers) Coach (Rob) Ianello spends a lot of time with him after practice, working on route technique. He's really a conscientious young man. He's probably one of the funniest guys I've been around, (but) he works really hard at practice."
And what was Tate doing last year at this time?
"He was just running," Haywood deadpanned. "He was out there running around."
Tate isn't afraid to agree with Haywood's assessment.
"Last year, the game was moving way too fast," Tate said. "It was almost like I was playing a sport that I had never played before. Luckily, I had speed and I was athletic enough to find a way to get the ball."
Jimmy Clausen is quick to point out that Tate isn't the only one growing into Notre Dame's offense.
"Last year, he really didn't know the offense, just like I didn't, and certainly not like we do now," Clausen said. "I have confidence, he has confidence and the biggest thing he has right now is he knows what he's doing in different situations, whether it's changing the play at the line of scrimmage or adjusting his route based on the coverage."
When told that Tate said he wouldn't have been able to adjust his route at the line of scrimmage a year ago, Clausen smiled and said, "I think he's right on with that."
So was Tate really running around like a chicken with his head cut off?
"Absolutely," Tate said.