SOUTH BEND, Ind. – If Everett Golson lived the season in one night, it was Oct. 27. No one expected Notre Dame to enter the clamor at Oklahoma and survive, and its fledgling first-year quarterback slogged through the flu to boot.
At halftime, Golson needed reassurance from linebacker Manti Te’o: We’re going to get through this together, Te’o told him. By the end, Golson jogged off victorious and later laughed as his offensive coordinator teased him about what he supposedly can’t do, when Golson and his team had just established anything was possible.
“I would say this is the definition of a growing process,” Golson said as he prepared for the BCS championship game against Alabama, an opportunity the sophomore deems “surreal.”
“After having to go through those trials, the adversity had to be dealt with. But I feel like if you’re tried like that, that’s what makes great players great.”
What happens Jan. 7 might pinpoint exactly how far Golson is on the way to that other side.
He is hardened and more functional running the offense than he was in September, if nowhere near a finished product. But as fast and disciplined as Alabama will be, it can’t be much worse than the gantlet Golson already endured.
“There had to have been, at times, questions about, ‘Does Coach Kelly want me to be the guy here? Is this my job or Tommy Rees’ job?’ ” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “Even though we told him it was his, those actions probably weren’t clear enough for him.
“Once he knew after the Oklahoma game that he was the guy, the confidence level and the trust builds and builds. That’s why I’m confident that the moment won’t be too big for him.”
A mobile, improv-heavy, combustible quarterback drove Alabama to its one loss. That quarterback was Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, and he won the Heisman Trophy with 4,600 yards of offense, nearly double Golson’s 2,440.
Notre Dame would take a Johnny Football knock-off outing. It also will take calm and composed and take its chances.
“I said I can tell you’re a better performer not based on performance,” offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said he told Golson. “I can tell you’re a better player based on how you jog out onto the field, how you conduct in between snaps and communicate. You just look so much calmer.”