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Golson Gears Up For Biggest Test

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It’s selling the Notre Dame coaching staff short to believe it would try and completely mimic what Texas A&M did in a 29-24 victory over Alabama back on Nov. 10. The Aggies high-octane offense pumped out 44.8 points per game in 2012 en route to Friday’s Cotton Bowl matchup with Oklahoma. The Fighting Irish managed only 26.8 points per outing. They’re two different animals.

If ND quarterback Everett Golson can be effective both on the ground and through the air, the Alabama defense will have its hands full

There is one parallel between Texas A&M and Notre Dame that bodes well for the No. 1-ranked Irish when they take on the No. 2 Crimson tide in Monday’s BCS National Championship — a mobile quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel kicked off his Heisman candidacy in Tuscaloosa by rushing 18 times for 92 net yards and completing 24 of 31 passing attempts, with no interceptions, for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Notre Dame’s own rookie QB, sophomore Everett Golson, has been effective on the ground and through the air this season, throwing for 346 passing yards against Wake Forest, 289 against Purdue, and rushing for 74 yards versus Pittsburgh and 64 at Oklahoma.

“This dude is just unbelievable,” Irish senior running back Theo Riddick said Friday. “He makes something out of nothing. He’s just very smooth and very swift.”

It’s a far cry from August, when not everyone at Notre Dame believed Golson would be ready to handle the starting gig by the time the season opener against Navy in Ireland rolled around.

“Oh man, I remember we couldn’t even go through a full practice without him asking coaches, ‘Is this the right check, is that the right check?’ Riddick recalled. “Now he’s doing everything; he’s telling the coaches when they mess up. He has definitely developed into a great player.”

Golson’s ascent wasn’t without major turbulence, including being benched at home against Purdue and Michigan for junior reserve Tommy Rees. But having played well on big stages in Norman, Okla., and Los Angeles, Golson is projecting confidence heading into Monday’s title game.

“I don't ride the wave too much,” Golson said in front of a ballroom packed with reporters. “I'm kind of just focused on what's played between the yard lines, what's played on the field. Can't really focus on everything that's off the field because that's out of my control.”

“I don’t think he’s going to get nervous,” Riddick added. “He lives for these moments. I’m excited for him to go out there and take on this big stage.”

Just like Riddick, junior receiver TJ Jones has watched Golson, who went from scout team QB in 2011 to unseating Rees this season, mature at a staggering rate.

“He’s able to make reads faster; he’s able to take the game into his hands and make plays with his arm and his feet and really take control of the offense,” Jones explained. “He’s able to tell everyone on the field what to do now, opposed to earlier in the season he was still learning as everyone else was, so he couldn’t do that.

“With the added threat of his legs is how I think he makes our offense more dangerous. A play is never over when he’s in. He can scramble and make plays and get 20 yards on a run or 20 yards on a pass. Defenses really have to scheme for his ability to run and throw.”

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