SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson’s first year as a starter wasn’t always smooth.
The sophomore was pulled in favor of junior Tommy Rees in the final minutes of the Irish’s 20-17 home win over Purdue on Sept. 8. Then two weeks later, Golson didn’t make it out of the first half against Michigan as Rees was called on to guide Notre Dame to a 13-6 victory.
Golson was then held out of the starting lineup the next week when Notre Dame played Miami in Chicago because he was late for a meeting. But he was back on the field after Rees ran the first offensive series in what turned into a 41-3 blowout win Oct. 6.
While it wasn’t easy to be replaced in games, Golson was glad Rees was there to help the No. 1 Irish (12-0) reach the BCS championship game against No. 2 Alabama on Jan. 7 in Miami.
“Tommy’s been a great supporter of me and a great help to me,” Golson said. “You talk about leading, he was starting last year and you come into this year and your job is in jeopardy, I think he really handled it well. He was very professional about it. I think me and his relationship has benefited from it. I saw that he was genuine, and he truly is. He is a genuine guy. I’m happy to have him.”
The Irish were happy to have Rees, too, after Golson suffered a concussion in a 20-13 overtime win against Stanford on Oct. 13 and when Golson had to sit out a 17-14 win over BYU on Oct. 20.
“It speaks volumes to our coaching staff and Everett’s character. Our offense can count on two different guys,” Rees said. “Everett’s growth throughout the season has been great. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a person and as a player.”
When Golson returned in the Irish’s 30-13 road win over Oklahoma on Oct. 27, he said he was more comfortable on the field.
“Going back to the beginning of the year everything was on the fly for me,” Golson said. “I tried to get the technical side down, probably midseason is when I got back to being me, just doing what I know I can do and what makes me best as a quarterback.”
Part of what makes Golson the best quarterback he can be is similar to the only quarterback to beat Alabama this season – Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
Just like the Aggies’ first-year quarterback, Golson can extend plays with his maneuverability and can be a threat in the running game.
Golson, who had 21 rushing attempts and was at minus 11 yards entering the game against Miami, finished the regular season with 305 rushing yards on 89 carries with five touchdowns.
Manziel, who ran for 1,181 yards with 19 touchdowns this year, ran for 92 yards against the Crimson Tide in a 29-24 win Nov. 10. He also threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
Golson, who threw for 2,135 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions this year, hopes to utilize his maneuverability in similar fashion against the Tide.
“I think that is what I bring to the table a little bit, improvising a little bit when the play doesn’t always go right,” Golson said.
“We know that it is not always going to go your way, so you have to turn bad plays into good plays. I think that is an advantage that we possess going to Alabama.”