MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — At the conclusion of Alabama’s 42-14 victory over Notre Dame on Monday night in the BCS National Championship Game, the two starting quarterbacks went in separate directions. As Alabama’s experienced redshirt junior A.J. McCarron won his second national title as a starter, Notre Dame’s sophomore Everett Golson walked off the field quietly.
Notre Dame had fallen short, but the first-year starter focused after the game on the opportunity to grow, in the hopes of one day standing where McCarron was.
“I’m kind of just taking this game under my belt,” Golson said. “Like I said, I’ll just gain the experience from it, and really looking forward to next year, knowing that I’ve got to be more of a leader, and just being more of a leader to this team and trying to make this team better.”
In the biggest game of his life, Golson had a mixed performance statistically but was one of Notre Dame’s best performers on either side of the ball. The sophomore was 21-of-36 through the air for 270 yards and one touchdown with an interception. He added a rushing touchdown to put Notre Dame on the scoreboard in the third quarter.
But Notre Dame’s offense failed to convert consistently on third-down conversions as Golson could not establish the rhythm needed to put up points with Alabama.
“We just had to go out and affect [Golson],” Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson said. “We felt he was their true leader and if he was rolling, the team was rolling. We wanted to go out and affect him the best we could and stop them.”
Golson gave Notre Dame fans a bright spot with his second-half performance, bringing the Irish from a 28-0 hole at halftime and putting 14 points on the board in the second half. After a first half in which the young signal-caller made some questionable throws on short-distance conversions, Golson settled in with 182 passing yards after throwing for just 88 in the first half.
Much of that production owed to downfield connections with sophomore wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and junior wide receiver T.J. Jones, who both produced big numbers in the loss.
“It took us a while to get a feel for their defense,” Jones said. “They played more press-man than we thought they would, which changed their look in the box. We tried to carve out a run game while having an effective pass game, but it took us a while to get used to it.
“I just had to find a way to keep the play open when Everett [Golson] got into space. I played more physical with the DBs rather than finessing them, which helped me out.”
After the game, Irish coach Brian Kelly was asked to reflect on the future of his offense with the trio of Golson, Daniels and Jones returning in the passing game. Kelly asked his young quarterback a question instead.
“Well, if Everett would come back for another year — are you coming back?” he said.
The quarterback who came up short against a counterpart with multiple national championships responded with a laugh that he would return.
“We worry about whether he wants to play basketball,” Kelly said jokingly. “These guys have played great competition across the board from the start of the season to the end, and obviously it’s only going to help them going forward.”
For Golson and his emerging offensive weapons, going forward will mean returning to the same stage again and achieving a far different result.