Notre Dame’s Everett Golson will arrive in Tallahassee this weekend with as impressive a resume as the Seminoles have seen from a quarterback this season.
Golson, a senior from Myrtle Beach, S.C., owns a 16-1 record in two seasons as a starter and this year has guided the Fighting Irish to a 6-0 record and No. 5 national ranking.
He’s also shown no ill effects from a one-year suspension in 2013, having thrown for 1,683 yards, running for 209 more and scoring 20 total touchdowns.
Safe to say, then, that the Florida State defense expects to have its hands full on Saturday night.
“The only thing I can compare him to is like (Auburn quarterback) Nick Marshall,” FSU defensive end Mario Edwards said.
“He can run, he’s fast and he can throw. So we just definitely have to be assignment-sound and stay in our gaps and don’t give him lanes to run out of.”
Seminoles cornerback P.J. Williams said that Golson’s ability to scramble out of the pocket, scan downfield and still deliver an on-target throw reminds him more of someone a little closer to home.
“It takes a real good quarterback to be able to, after running the ball, still look downfield,” Williams said.
“I’ve seen that in Jameis (Winston). I haven’t really seen it in many other quarterbacks.”
FSU has at times had trouble with dual-threat quarterbacks this season.
Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener, and Clemson freshman Deshaun Watson had 30 rushing yards and a TD in Tallahassee last month.
And three weeks ago, North Carolina State’s Jacoby Brissett rushed for 90 yards (38 total after accounting for sack yardage), often at the expense of an FSU pass rush that had him in its grasp, only to see the elusive quarterback slip away.
“It’s always tough when you have a quarterback that can run and pass because … even if you know everybody is locked down in the backfield, he can still pull the ball down and run,” FSU linebacker Terrance Smith said.
“Your D-linemen have to have their rush lanes. They have to keep contain on him and keep him bottled up.”
And FSU’s defensive backs “have to cover guys longer and make sure you stay locked in on your man,” junior safety Tyler Hunter said. “And don’t try to go get the quarterback because he can get away from people and just throw the ball downfield and make plays.”
Golson’s theatrics, though, have sometimes come at a cost.
He’s thrown four interceptions this season and has turned the ball over nine times in his last three games.
That includes a run of three turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) that led to 21 points for North Carolina last week. The Irish rallied for a 50-43 victory.
Florida State, meanwhile, has been on a turnover tear in recent weeks. After a relatively slow start, the Seminoles have taken the ball away nine times in their last three games, including three interceptions last week at Syracuse.
Williams said the Seminoles would look to continue each of those trends on Saturday.
“We are definitely going to make sure that we knock it loose,” Williams said. “If he’s going to have (the ball) loose, we’re definitely looking to make a turnover.”
Still, Golson and the Fighting Irish have yet to pay for those miscues, and that’s due in large part to Golson’s ability to move beyond them and play well.
He ended up with 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Irish’s win over UNC. And Golson touched up Syracuse for 363 yards and four touchdowns despite also giving the ball away four times in a 31-15 victory over the Orange.
“We’ll have to definitely contain him,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Because he can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with his arm.
“His competitiveness, his toughness, I mean … he’s a heck of a football player.”