It wasn’t even a thought in Everett Golson’s moment at the time.
October 18, 2014.
Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.
Notre Dame played Florida State on even terms in one of the best games of the college football season. Drama, quality, systematic precision mixed with ruthless aggression — Notre Dame not only avoided a bloodbath on the road; the Irish largely carried the run of play against the defending national champions in the Florida panhandle.
Golson stood toe to toe with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He looked the part of the quarterback Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly always hoped he would be after sitting out the 2013 season.
Then this happened:
Whether you agree with the call or not, it undeniably altered the trajectory and complexion of the second half of the 2014 campaign. Instead of being an unbeaten team with a substantial new measure of confidence, Notre Dame became a one-loss team without any real margin for error. Shaken by that loss to Florida State and ravaged by injuries on defense, Notre Dame had to take more chances on offense. The man who bore the double burden of this new reality — psychologically and tactically — was Golson, a man who felt he had to do more to compensate for the diminished roster which surrounded him.
Unfortunately, Golson collapsed under the weight of his assignment.
It could very well be that Golson’s November fade in 2014 was a product of his adjusted (and far more difficult) situation. It could be that with Florida State’s level of talent, everything will fall back into place for both Golson himself and the Seminoles as a whole. There’s a strong argument to make for this scenario, one enhanced by the fact that Jimbo Fisher is now a coaching superstar, one who should be able to blend well with an upperclassman quarterback.
Moreover, Fisher saw — up close and personal, last October — just how talented Golson is when he’s locked in and protecting the ball, something he just didn’t do against Arizona State or USC in his November from hell. If any coach can once again cultivate the best instincts in Golson and get him to play the way he did against Florida State 10 months ago, it’s Fisher.
However, what if Golson irretrievably lost something in that Florida State game last season? What if leaving Brian Kelly and his purple-faced rage — as healthy as that might be for Golson — does not represent an instant cure-all for his problems? What if the pressure of stepping into Jameis Winston’s shoes — at a comparatively less familiar school — requires an adjustment period? What if his ball-security problems aren’t repaired? This season could crash down on Golson, meaning that Sean Maguire will face very little margin for error as a Seminole in 2015.
Golson might not be the pillar of the team for FSU this fall, a contrast to the fanfare which greeted the start of his 2014 season in South Bend. However, the chances are pretty good that Florida State will need Golson’s combination of skill, big-stage experience (he did start a BCS National Championship Game, after all), and improvisational playmaking ability when the pocket breaks down. Having endured some considerable ups and downs in his career, he might even be in a position to offer some wisdom about dealing with mistakes, handling moments of on-field failure, and watching life unfold in a manner far different from what was initially planned or hoped.
It would make a great story if Golson — very nearly the conqueror of Doak Campbell Stadium a year ago — leads Florida State back to the College Football Playoff this season.
It will make a compelling story — one way or the other — if Golson steps into the spotlight at any point in this season, with Florida State now hoping that its quarterback will throw a game-winning touchdown pass…
… and that a pick play won’t be called at the goal line.