Notre Dame vs. Alabama: What the Irish Need from Everett Golson to Beat the Tide
If you have not been able to tell, here at Your Best 11, the BCS National Championship Game has gotten us all up in a tizzy. We've hit on Notre Dame's zone run and Alabama's Power-O. We've also designed our own script for Alabama's first 10 plays and talked about Matthias Farley, Notre Dame's X-factor.
Now, we'll turn our focus to the man who will play the biggest role in the Fighting Irish's push for a BCS championship, sophomore quarterback Everett Golson.
Golson's not going to beat Alabama by himself, but the signal-caller is going to be integral to Brian Kelly's effort to get the win. Golson has some general rules that he needs to stick to in addition to his passing and running contributions.
Do you think Everett Golson will play well enough to beat Alabama?
Starting with the wide-angle lens, Golson has to play turnover-free football. Making mistakes is going to happen, but he cannot compound bad reads, a poor play call or an offensive-line failure by turning the ball over. That means no strip-sacks, no fumbles on the run and most certainly no bad-decision throws into traffic.
Pretty simple as a rule, but that is the bare minimum for Golson to help keep the Irish in the game.
To go along with playing turnover-free football comes the other general rule: Slide! Tommy Rees is not beating Alabama. The best shot for the Irish is for Everett Golson to be in the game, and the sophomore will not be in the game if he is taking shots from the Crimson Tide defense.
Get out of bounds or get on the ground, don't be a hero, son.
We'll talk ground game first, because if Golson can establish himself as a threat to run, he can force the issue with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
One of my favorite performances against a Nick Saban defense came from Stephen Garcia in the 2010 Alabama-South Carolina game.
Everyone remembers Garcia's big passing performance, but the real intriguing element of the game was the way he forced the issue on the ground to kick things off; picking up two huge first downs on the ground for the Gamecocks.
In the case of Everett Golson, he has to do much of the same. Use the zone read, the quarterback draw and scramble situations to show Nick Saban and his defense that they better focus on the run out of the quarterback position.
Forcing Alabama to play more zone coverage, as opposed to more man to man, is the goal in Golson proving that he can be a running threat. Pick up a few yards, a big first down or two, and the defenders' eyeballs will be looking into the backfield.
Which brings us to the air attack that Golson is going to be leading in this title game. The sophomore from Myrtle Beach, S.C., has to be accurate and versatile in his attacking of the Alabama defense through the air. That means accuracy in the quick hitters to the likes of T.J. Jones and DaVaris Daniels. It also means working the middle of the defense and not being afraid to stretch the field.
Here is where the Golson run game meshes with the Golson pass game to allow him to attack the defense. We've seen Golson in the play-action passing game; we know that he can make that work when given protection.
Another element of Golson's ability in the run game coming into play, after showing a few runs early, will be the run-action fake. A play-action pass is great, but the run-action pass is deadly. Here, Johnny Manziel shows just how dangerous the quarterback run-action pass can be.
Alabama's in its dime defense, six defensive backs on the field.
Johnny Manziel shows run to the right side, and the defense reacts by flowing to the football.
Manziel pops up to pass the ball after his run fake. Robert Lester, the Alabama safety, hesitates, and that allows the receiver to get on top of him with his route. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is just now realizing that the play is a pass.
The old saying goes, "If he's even, he's leaving," and that's exactly what the receiver does, catching it in the seam because Lester was slow to get into coverage on the run-action fake and there is no help from the other side, as Clinton-Dix is out of position.
Look for Brian Kelly to work a few plays like this into the game plan for the Alabama game, because they work. Especially when it comes to stretching the field and looking for openings against the Tide.
Oh, and last but not least, find Tyler Eifert! Everett Golson has got to find his big, 6'6" tight end early and often.
Eifer will be coming off the line trying to get open in the seam while matched up against Lester or Vinnie Sunseri. There will also be opportunities against the vulnerable Deion Belue once the Irish get into the red zone and flex Eifert out.
Everett Golson, entering the BCS National Championship Game, has a lot on his plate, and rightfully so. The kid is going to be the major cog in the Irish's system.
Golson is capable of executing all of the things that will be asked of him. If the game plan goes well, then the Irish will most certainly be in position to get a win late.
If things go awry, then Alabama will have back-to-back titles within its grasp.
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