Comeback-of-the-Year awards are the domain of professional sports, but Florida State quarterback Everett Golson is making a case for one in college football.
With the college sports world gradually moving toward professional attitudes, maybe it is time for college conferences to adopt such an award to fit the changing nature of their sports. Up until now, conference football honors basically have been limited to offensive and defensive players of the year and variations of freshman and newcomer of the year.
In the 2015 football season, Golson would be a leading candidate for Comeback of the Year. And that is true in more ways than one.
First of all, he’s done more than overcome his reputations as an inconsistent quarterback and turnover machine. He has erased it through the first six games.
He still has yet to throw an interception or fumble the ball for he No. 11-ranked Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 ACC Atlantic) after a 41-21 win over Louisville Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. Florida State, in fact, has only one turnover for the season – on a punt return in the season-opening rout of Texas State.
And secondly, if the college sports world wants to resemble pro sports with such dubious rules as the NCAA graduate transfer that turned Golson into a free agent, Golson is a poster boy.
You’ll recall Golson was Notre Dame’s starting quarterback until Irish coach Brian Kelly said after spring ball his 2015 starter would be sophomore Malik Zaire (who, in an odd coincidence, was lost for the year two games into the regular season with a broken ankle). Kelly was frustrated by Golson’s inconsistent play and turnovers in 2014.
Instead of Golson accepting a backup role and finishing his career at the school that recruited him and with his teammates through the past four years of ups-and-downs, he twisted the true meaning of an NCAA graduate rule to bolt.
You can’t argue with the results – Golson is having the best season of his career – but until we see him walking around with a Masters’ degree, we all know he transferred to resume his role as a starting quarterback in a new location.
Basketball was the first sport where the impact of graduate transfers developed. With only five positions, a transfer could shift the balance of power in a conference race.
Then Russell Wilson got the turnstile revolving in football for quarterbacks, the position that most impacts a team. When then-North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien essentially kicked Wilson off the team in 2011 – he gave him a release when he wasn’t on campus for spring football while he played minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization — Wilson transferred to Wisconsin.
Wilson was immediately eligible and led the Badgers to a Big Ten title. And in a related event, O’Brien was fired two years later.
Disgruntled college quarterbacks that have graduated are essentially free agents. They’re selling their services to a school looking for a QB to replace the ones they recruited that failed to develop.
When an unhappy quarterback sees a situation better than his current one, he announces he is transferring. When Golson took that step, Florida State and Alabama bid for Golson’s services, among others, like he was a high school senior.
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock left Iowa when he was beat out by C.J. Beathard in spring ball. Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman only started two games in three years at Tennessee, but now he’s leading 5-1 Pitt.
Don’t expect to see such transfers, though, in the library researching their Masters’ thesis after football season.
According to NCAA data, only 32 percent of the basketball players that have utilized the rule earned a Masters’ degree. In football, the number is 24 percent.
But Golson didn’t do anything wrong. He has followed the rules that permitted a second wind.
Against Louisville, he was 26 of 38 for 372 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. All three numbers are season highs for him at Florida State.
The Seminoles were 8 of 14 on third-down conversions and didn’t face a fourth down try. They controlled the ball for 34:17.
Florida State’s playmakers produced, but with Golson under center the Seminoles weren’t limited to big plays to win.
Of the seven scoring drives, four marches were nine plays or more.
— Nine plays, 60 yards: Robert Aquayo’s 43-yard field goal, 3-0 lead.
— 12 plays, 60 yards: Aquayo’s 32-yard field goal, 7-6 deficit.
— 5 plays, 87 yards: Dalvin Cook’s 54-yard run, 13-7 lead.
— 3 plays, 75 yards: Kermit Whitfield 70-yard pass from Golson, 20-14 lead.
— 3 plays, 36 yards: Cook, 14- yard run, 27-14 lead.
— 13 plays, 83 yards: Travis Rudolph, 13 pass from Golson, 34-14 lead.
— 11 plays, 75 yards: Ryan Izzo 2-yard pass, 41-21 final score.
Without Golson’s superb play, it’s not a stretch to think Florida State would have lost a game by now with inconsistent quarterback play from inexperienced Sean Maguire. But instead the Seminoles are 6-0 for the third straight year and extended their ACC winning streak to 28.
Florida State can thank the NCAA graduate rule college football’s 2015 Comeback Player of the Year.