It’s clear that Florida State’s defense is showing the appropriate respect for Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Just look at who they’re comparing him to.
“I think the only guy I can compare him to is Nick Marshall,” Seminoles defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said this week, according to Noles247. “He can run, he is fast, and he can throw. We definitely need to be assignment sound and stay in our gaps. Don’t give him lanes to run out of.”
Comparing Golson to Auburn’s fleet-footed quarterback might be giving a little bit too much credit to Golson’s top-end speed. While he’s elusive enough to wreak havoc extending plays outside the pocket, his jets once he gets outside the pocket don’t necessarily matchup with Marshall.
But Golson’s ability to throw the football once on the edge, and do so with efficiency, is a challenge that the Seminoles must show they’re able to stop, and something he does better than Gus Malzahn’s trigger-man. So while Golson and the Irish’s challenge to beat the Seminoles with his arm is daunting, this isn’t the 2013 FSU defense they’re facing. After being one of the most statistically dominant groups in the country last season, Florida State’s unit is still growing into their jobs.
Those struggles were on display when North Carolina State jumped to an early lead as they scored 24 first-quarter points and 41 in all behind quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The junior quarterback put up his best numbers of the year against Florida State, completing 32 of 48 throws for 359 yards and three touchdowns, the only game all season he’s crossed the 300-yard barrier. Brissett also kept the Seminoles defense honest with his feet, running for 38 yards, most coming on a 36-yard scamper. The Wolfpack didn’t pull off the upset, but they did sound a few alarms and lay a blueprint for attacking the defending champs.
Strategically, how Kelly deploys his quarterback will be interesting. While fumble-itis has hit Golson at the wrong time, the quarterback still is likely the Irish’s most difficult to defend running matchup. Thinking back to Notre Dame’s upset of Oklahoma, it was Golson who had his number called multiple times to convert critical third downs. It was the quarterback run that was utilized to exploit holes in the Sooner defense that the Irish coaching staff identified on tape.
Golson will be asked to do much more on Saturday than he was two seasons ago, a game that Notre Dame dominated thanks to seizing opportunities, playing great defense and hitting the big play when they needed it. And with Jameis Winston having never been held below 34 points as a starting quarterback, Golson will need to make sure he lights up the scoreboard.
Against the Seminoles’ impressive personnel, that won’t be easy. But after battling a difficult scheme two weeks ago against Stanford, the challenges won’t be as much Xs and Os, but, as Jimmy Johnson used to say, the Jimmys and the Joes.
“This will be probably the least complex defense (Golson) will see. What you see is what you get,” Kelly said, according to Nicole Auerbach at USA Today. “They can afford to say, ‘This is what I’ve got, come and beat me.’
“They’re big. They’re physical. They’re fast on the edge. They can play man-to-man coverage. It allows them to not be put in compromising situations as much, with formations and tempo and things like that.”
Sounds like the type of challenge you expect when two top-five teams face off. And a challenge that will stress both the Irish and the Seminoles.