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Notre Dame's young QB learns on the job

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Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, left, and quarterback Everett Golson, meet with members of the media Friday. The Fighting Irish take on Alabama in the BCS National Championship on Monday. (Source: Tom Ensey/RNN) Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, left, and quarterback Everett Golson, meet with members of the media Friday. The Fighting Irish take on Alabama in the BCS National Championship on Monday. (Source: Tom Ensey/RNN)
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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (RNN) – If Notre Dame can score enough points to beat Alabama, Everett Golson will be the reason why.

The redshirt freshman went from being the Fighting Irish coaching staff's scout team player of the year to quarterback of an undefeated, No. 1 ranked team in the national championship.

It's been a bumpy ride – he's thrown interceptions, fought injury, gotten clobbered and weaved back to the huddle. Some of his best plays happened when he tried to pass and nobody was open, so he ran around a while until somebody shook loose.

It's that ability to extend plays that worries the Crimson Tide's defensive coordinator.

"You can't prepare for that," said Kirby Smart, who has watched hours of tape on Golson. "He's got terrific arm talent. I can see in my head about three instances of him throwing from one side of the field to the other. He'll scramble to the right, throw left to a wide open receiver that they had covered, but he got open because the defender just lost him."

Golson is a shifty, elusive little guy who creates problems by the way he plays. Alabama had a notoriously bad outing against Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who's more spectacular but has a similar game.

Bama defensive end Damion Square said the kinds of quarterbacks who can extend plays are a headache.

"[Golson's] a great weapon," he said. "The way he can scramble around can cause havoc for our defense. You have to know how to contain. You have to be disciplined so his receivers won't be running around too long on our defensive backs."

Smart said he has seen Golson's development as he studied up on him for Monday's BCS National Championship Game. He's developed more passing skill, confidence and flexibility.

"I'm sure he's grown a lot in the 35 or 40 days since their last game," Smart said. "I'm sure they'll let him do more, and we're anticipating that."

Golson's coach, Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, said Golson got thrown in the fire early. The first snap he took was in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy, and three of the first four games were against Big Ten opponents.

"For me, looking from the [coaches] box, the game he got his confidence was the Oklahoma game," Martin said. "Watching him take the field and running the show."

Zack Martin, Notre Dame's best offensive lineman, agreed.

"That was his leadership game," Martin said. "We saw more of what kind of quarterback he could be. Before he was tentative; that's when he stepped up and played the way we felt he could play."

Golson ran for 64 yards and a touchdown and threw for 177 yards as Notre Dame hammered then-No. 8 Oklahoma 30-13. The QB said he remembered a little visit with star linebacker Manti Te'o at half.

"He said, ‘Don't worry, we got you,'" Golson recalled. "To have a defensive player come over and encourage me like that gave me a lot of confidence."

Golson said the seeds of that game started a few weeks earlier, in a 41-3 win against Miami. He felt the team was beginning to become his, and developed the confidence that helped him perform well against Oklahoma and later Pitt, when he scored in triple OT to help his team win.

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