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Everett Golson has put early-season nerves well behind him

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golspasses during first half their NCAA college football game against Southern CaliforniSaturday Nov. 24 2012 Los

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson passes during the first half of their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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BCS NATIONAL
CHAMPIONShIP

NOTRE DAME
vs. ALABAMA

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Where: Sun Life Stadium,
Miami Gardens, Fla.

TV: ESPN.

Line: Alabama by 91/2.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Theo Riddick leaned into the huddle and saw it in Everett Golson’s eyes. He saw nerves, confusion, bewilderment and perhaps fear in the redshirt freshman.

“I definitely saw it,” Riddick said.

It was Michigan in prime time in September in front of 82,000 fans at Notre Dame Stadium and millions more watching on television. And it was too much for Golson.

Backup quarterback Tommy Rees stopped the bleeding — Golson was 3-for-8 for 30 yards with two interceptions when he got the hook — just enough to let the Irish defense pull out a 13-6 victory. But the alarm had been sounded.

Golson was shielded from the media. Kelly offered half-hearted endorsements. Rees became a folk hero. Yet another Notre Dame quarterback controversy took hold, only now it wasn’t a training-camp battle for a team with middling expectations, it was a midseason debate for a team rapidly ascending the national ranks.

But that was all on the outside. Inside Golson’s mind, confidence never wavered. And inside the locker room, there was never a doubt, not after seeing how motivated and angry the humiliation made him.

The overwhelmed Golson Irish fans saw? That was a fluke, say his teammates, who’ve seen the cocky kid smile and talk his way through practices. That was just an off night, says his offensive coordinator, Chuck Martin, who has seen nothing but confidence since.

That simply was not Golson, says the high school coach who watched him win a basketball state championship as a freshman, a football state championship as a sophomore and another as a senior after missing nine games with a foot injury and returning for the playoffs.

“He’s always had the ability to push through adversity,” said Myrtle Beach High coach Mickey Wilson. “I think it’s kind of naturally instilled in him. He’s just a winner.”

That’s the real Golson, they say. The one who walked into Norman, Okla., and led a fourth quarter for the ages to beat the Sooners. The one who took one last demoralizing benching against Pittsburgh, only to come back three series later and lead two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and win in triple-overtime. The one who’s leading the top-ranked Irish into the BCS championship game Jan. 7 against the imposing Alabama defense.

“I’m not the type that really succumbs to pressure,” Golson said. “I don’t make any moment bigger than what it is.”

He admitted he did just the opposite against Michigan. But Golson says the guy who stood on the sideline for the second half of that game isn’t the same guy who will run out of the tunnel at Sun Life Stadium on Monday.

If Michigan was a wake-up call and Oklahoma was a coming-out party, then Pittsburgh was when Golson grew up. He called it his defining moment, when he showed Kelly “he can trust in me.”

In the three games since, with the stakes escalating each week, Golson threw for 763 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. He added another dimension to the Irish offense with his stretch plays and zone reads. He put Rees back on the bench and helped put the Irish back atop the college football world.

And he has three full seasons of eligibility left.

“I’m going to have something to prove until my career is over here,” Golson said. “I’m just a guy who, if I do win one, I want to win two or three more. I’m a competitor.”



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