Golson’s improvisation act may be key against Alabama

Everett Golson may not be Johnny Manziel, but Alabama is plenty aware of what the two quarterbacks have in common.
Posted on Jan. 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After weeks of watching film on Notre Dame, Kirby Short has three plays burned into his mind, on an infinite loop of elusiveness.

A 36-yard touchdown pass against Michigan State.

An 11-yard touchdown pass against Pitt.

An 18-yard touchdown pass against Boston College.

Three times Everett Golson scrambled right. Three times he threw it across the field to his left.

Three times Notre Dame scored.

“He throws it all the way across the field to his left to a wide open received where a guy just lost him,” Alabama’s defensive coordinator mused. “They had him covered and they lost him. To that kid’s credit, that creates a different angle of the offense that’s hard to prepare for. It’s hard to simulate that, simulate a play that extends that long. You can’t do it, you really can’t.”

Everett Golson may not have the arm of Landry Jones, the legs of Denard Robinson nor the accuracy of AJ McCarron, but he possesses a Heisman-like evasiveness that’s giving Short flashbacks of Johnny Manziel.

“He will run if he has to, but he scrambles to throw the ball, find people open,” Smart said of Golson. “He extends plays. But there are a lot of similarities between (Golson and Manziel). Both of them are youthful, and sometimes youth is a good thing. He doesn’t have a very long memory. He forgets it and he’s right back to the next play and will make another big play. So there are a lot of similarities between the two.”

Smart and the Alabama defense have a reason to be wary of a Manziel look-alike. Led by the Heisman winner’s 253-yard passing, 92-yard rushing and 2-touchdown performance, Texas A&M handed the Tide its first and only loss of the season, toppling the crimson giant from its No. 1 spot in the polls.

While Golson isn’t Manziel, while he doesn’t own an 89-yard touchdown bomb or a 576-all purpose yards in one game, he has the potential to make — or break — the game for the Irish.

And Alabama knows it.

“They’ve allowed him to do more, more flexibility in the system, in the scheme,” Smart said of Golson. “He’s grown a lot. I can only imagine in the last 35 days however many it’s been, they’re going to let him do some more. We expect that. He’s a great player, very talented.”

If Notre Dame is going to beat Alabama, it likely won’t be solely thanks to Kyle Brindza’s foot this time around.

An Irish offense that has only scored 27 touchdowns on 58 trips to the red zone needs to rely on more than field goals, and that starts with a quarterback who has only thrown nine touchdowns inside the 20-yard line.

Golson began hitting his stride in the Oklahoma win in Week 8, but Alabama will present the harshest audience to the free-form musician’s improv act.

“I think it’s tough,” Golson said of the opportunity to extend plays against Alabama. “They have a great defense, they play their responsibilities. So it’s going to be hard for us to kind of exploit their defense. But I’m sure just my ability to improvise and the guys’ around me ability to improvise, we’ll work something out.”

A heavy slice of Notre Dame’s title chances sits on Golson’s plate. But offensive coordinator Chuck Martin thinks the redshirt freshman can stomach the challenge.

“I’d say just for him, our schedule, first-ever college game in Dublin, Ireland, first-ever home game against Purdue, road game primetime (against) 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,” Martin said.

“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.”

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