FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla — Everett Golson admittedly was feeling his way through his first season as the starting quarterback for Notre Dame.
The redshirt freshman from Myrtle Beach, S.C., had his good moments, and he also had bad ones.
It wasn’t until the eighth game the coaching staff saw Golson come of age in leading Notre Dame to a stunning 30-13 win over then-ranked No. 9 Oklahoma in Norman. Even though the Irish were ranked No. 5 at the time, few experts thought they could go on the road against a quality opponent and win.
In victory, Golson did what his coaches wanted him to do – he managed the game without a turnover, rushed for a touchdown and made plays when required.
Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said Golson’s play against the Sooners was the turning point for his quarterback.
“I’d say for me where it looked like from the box that he was really starting to get comfortable out there was Oklahoma, and not so much based on play and performance but just based on watching him take the field and watching him direct our offense,” Martin said.
Golson has a different opinion. He said a 41-3 victory in the fifth game against Miami at Soldier Field was when he reached a level of comfort directing the offense. Until then, his play had been erratic and he was coming off a one-game suspension for violating a team rule.
“That built a little bit of confidence in me, and I think it what was instilled in me there showed in the Oklahoma game and the Pitt game,” he said.
Golson’s numbers are pedestrian. He’s thrown for 2,135 yards and 11 TD against 5 interceptions. However, with a deep stable of running backs and one of the nation’s top defenses, Golson is not asked to be spectacular every week.
Martin has enjoyed watching Golson grow into the role of offensive leader, even though in 2011 he was running the scout team. Golson said being the scout team quarterback was an eye-opening experience.
“Me being put back on the scout team, it was just really a humbling experience,” he said. “Coming in, I thought I was ready to play or had that confidence that I was ready to play, but it wasn’t that way for me. Being put back on the scout team, like I said, really humbled me, made me kind of reassess myself.”
When he won the starting job, Golson immediately was thrust into some tough situations. Except for the season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland, there were no easy games on the Irish schedule.
“The difficult thing but the nice thing for him is he got thrown in the fire right away,” Martin said. “When you come out and you play three Big Ten teams your first four games and two or three huge rivals your first four games, he didn’t get to ease into this thing like some young quarterbacks do, so he got put in a bunch of different situations. But I think it’s just been steady progress based on getting out there, getting game experience, learning what we’re trying to do offensively at the same time, and then just kind of a steady progression.”
Now, he’s trying to become the first freshman quarterback since Jamelle Holieway of Oklahoma in 1986 to win a national title. Golson said he is aware of the magnitude of the event, but isn’t in awe of it.
“I don’t ride the wave too much,” he said. “I’m kind of just focused on what’s played between the yard lines, what’s played on the field. (I) can’t really focus on everything that’s off the field because that’s out of my control.”
Martin said Golson won’t be overwhelmed.
“Our schedule, first-ever college game in Dublin, Ireland, first-ever home game against Purdue, road game primetime Michigan State, night game at Notre Dame against Michigan, on the road at Oklahoma, on the road at USC, coming off the bench, doing all the things that he’s been through, he’s about as battle tested — take any other quarterback this year and try to figure out if they’ve gone through as much as Everett Golson. To me it’s not even close. Not even close.”
Contact Gregg Dewalt at 256-740-5748 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @greggdewalt on Twitter.