Quarterback Everett Golson was pretty comfortable Sunday talking about his first two months at Florida State, the process of fitting in with his new teammates and learning coach Jimbo Fisher’s offense.
Then came the question that caught him off guard:
“Was it pass interference?”
Golson lit up, his big smile turning into a laugh.
“I don’t know,” he said. “The ref made the call. It’s up for a lot of debate right now, even among the players.”
Golson, the graduate transfer from Notre Dame, was told he’s on the other side now, and he can be honest. But he still didn’t bite. He then acknowledged it was not the first time he was reminded about the final seconds of FSU’s 31-27 victory over the Irish last October.
“There are times where we’ll go back and forth,” he said. “D-linemen, corners, Jalen Ramsey] came up to me. We will have a little debate about it, but it’s all in fun now.”
Golson drove Notre Dame to the FSU 2-yard line and, on fourth down, he completed a pass to a wide-open Corey Robinson in the end zone. But as the Irish were celebrating, officials were wiping out the touchdown because of offensive pass interference, saying it was an illegal pick that freed Robinson. The Irish were pushed back, and Golson’s final desperation heave into the end zone was intercepted.
Seconds later, Golson and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston hugged and Golson trotted off the field …
The field he now calls home.
“I don’t think that was my thought process then,” Golson said when asked if in his wild imagination he envisioned returning to Doak Campbell Stadium as a member of the Seminoles.
“But it’s been good. Everything happens for a reason.”
Golson become a college football “free agent” after receiving his degree and taking advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule. He visited other schools, including Florida and Georgia, but chose to spend his final season of eligibility at Florida State partly because of the “culture” surrounding the program and partly because of Fisher’s reputation for developing quarterbacks.
And one other thing …
“He told me that there were no promises,” Golson said of Fisher. “That’s what maybe attracted me to him so much more because you can go anywhere, they fill your head up with different things. But it really comes out to be broken promises at the end of the day. For him to really tell me the real of the situation, I respected that so much more.”
Fisher has not wavered, listing redshirt junior Sean Maguire as the starter on the preseason depth chart and Golson No.3 behind freshman J.J. Cosentino.
Maguire, who won the job in the spring, said he was kept in the loop while the Seminoles were courting Golson. His reaction: “OK, let’s go. I’m not scared of competition at all.”
Golson started for two seasons, leading the Irish to a 12-0 regular season and the 2012 BCS title game before being hammered by Alabama 42-14. He missed the 2013 season after being suspended for cheating on a test and returned last season, leading Notre Dame to a 6-0 start and No. national ranking before the FSU game. The loss started a slide, and the Irish finished 8-5.
During that slump, Golson became a turnover machine. He finished with 22 in all — 14 interceptions and eight fumbles. Golson was reluctant to talk about the fumbles.
“I got that straight,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
FSU, though, is looking more at his 5,850 passing yards, 41 touchdown passes and the experience of leading a team to the championship game.
“He understands the spotlight, he understands the big stage,” FSU quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders said. “That is a huge advantage for us.”
The Seminoles run a pro-style offense in which Fisher always has adapted to the strength of his quarterbacks. Notre Dame’s offense has some option built in and at times relied on Golson’s athletic ability.
But Golson can sling the ball, too. He’s a polished passer who is adept at making decisions on the fly. And he said there are enough similarities in the two offenses that should make for a smooth transition.
“The biggest difference is terminology and understanding different philosophies,” he said. “But at Notre Dame, you were responsible for protections, for audibles and things like that. I think going through that for four years, that’s what has got me prepared for an offense as complex as this.”
But the one thing you can’t prepare for: Offensive pass interference when the game is on the line.