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Notre Dame

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Associated Press photos
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson threw for 2,135 yards with 11 TDs as a first-year starter.

Golson ready for title game

1st-year starter has matured as Irish excelled

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks with Golson during practice Thursday.

– There is no need to worry about Notre Dame first-year starting quarterback Everett Golson being able to perform on college football’s biggest stage, at least if you listen to Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin.

Golson will lead No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) against No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in tonight’s BCS championship game, and his 10 starts in 11 games this season have more than prepared him to play in the title game.

“First-ever college game in Dublin, Ireland, first-ever home game against Purdue, road game prime-time Michigan State, night game at Notre Dame against Michigan, on the road at Oklahoma, on the road at USC, coming off the bench … take any other quarterback this year and try to figure out if they’ve gone through as much as Everett Golson,” Martin said. “To me it’s not even close. Not even close.”

Golson’s development is one of the main reasons Notre Dame is so close to winning its first national title since 1988.

The 6-foot, 185-pound sophomore, who didn’t play as a freshman, threw for 2,135 yards with 11 touchdowns. He completed 166 of 282 passes with only five interceptions.

Golson also ran for 305 yards with five touchdowns on 89 carries.

“The thing I love about Everett is through the adversity, he has grown,” coach Brian Kelly said. “We certainly wouldn’t be here without him. … Yeah, he’s overcome adversity, and he’s put himself in a position now that everybody trusts that he’ll lead this football team.”

The trust in Golson to lead the Irish wasn’t always there.

Golson was pulled for the final drive of Notre Dame’s 20-17 home win over Purdue on Sept. 8 because last year’s starter, Tommy Rees, had a better handle on the Irish’s two-minute offense. Rees also replaced Golson in the first half in a 13-6 home win over Michigan on Sept. 22 after Golson struggled not to turn the ball over.

Rees started against Miami on Oct. 6 because Golson was late to a practice, but Golson came in after the first series in the Irish’s 41-3 win over the Hurricanes in Chicago’s Soldier Field.

After suffering a concussion in Notre Dame’s 20-13 overtime home win over Stanford on Oct. 13, Golson sat out the 17-14 home win over BYU on Oct. 20.

And when Golson returned, things began to turn around for the sophomore. Over Notre Dame’s last five games of the regular season, he went 87-of-147 passing for 1,167 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

He also rushed for three touchdowns in the final five games.

“He’s a special talent,” Rees said. “He’s got a different skill set. He’s able to run around, and he’s able to make throws that other people can’t make. His maturation and growth this year has helped him continue his success.”

Golson understands it will not be easy to run his record as a starter to 11-0 when the Irish take on the Tide, but he is also not going to back down from the challenge.

“The race is not given to the swift or the strong ... but it’s given to the one that endures to the end,” Golson said. “We’re obviously the underdogs coming into this game. ... Alabama has, like I said, a great defense, great team, bigger, faster, stronger, but it’s really about who’s going to endure to the end.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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