When Florida State transfer quarterback Everett Golson joined his new Seminoles teammates this summer, they kidded him about the two interceptions that he threw against them last season—part of the astronomical 22 turnovers that Golson committed as Notre Dame's starting quarterback a year ago.
But instead of trying to defend the pair of interceptions, Golson laughed when the miscues were mentioned.
"We used to get on him a little bit," Florida State running back Dalvin Cook tells The Inside Read with a laugh. "That was like his welcome here. He got used to it, so we kind of fell back off it a little bit."
Golson's teammates have had to back off because through the undefeated and ninth-ranked Seminoles' first six games this season, he's yet to turn the ball over once. Neither has the team's offense entering Saturday night's game at Georgia Tech (2–5, 0–4 ACC).
It's a formula that has kept Golson and his teammates in the mix for a return to the College Football Playoff despite several lackluster wins.
"He's done a really nice job," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher tells The Inside Read. "He's learning to make the plays with his arm, make the plays with his legs when he has to and make big plays with his mind. He's doing a really good job of decision-making, and at the same time he's keeping us out of negative plays [by] throwing the ball away. He's making the big plays, but also playing aggressive and smart."
Florida State's ability to hang on to the football is a huge difference from last season, when the Seminoles ranked second-to-last in the FBS in turnovers lost (32), primarily because of the disappointing performance of Golson's predecessor, Jameis Winston, who threw 18 interceptions.
But while Winston took more gambles in Fisher's complex pro-style offense, the 6-foot, 199-pound Golson has been better about sticking to the script. The redshirt senior has thrown for 1,449 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 67.2% of his passes, higher than he did in either of his two seasons starting for the Fighting Irish (58.8% in 2012, 60.0% last year).
"You're going to do what we do, how we do it, the way we do," Fisher says. "He's bought in 100%. Whatever happened in the past with him, I have no idea. It's just this is how we're going to do it. This is the way I want it done, and he has adhered to everything we've done."
With Golson having missed Florida State's spring practice while finishing his degree in management entrepreneurship at Notre Dame, this season has been a crash course in his ongoing education in game management, according to Fisher. It's given Golson a better understanding of what's supposed to be accomplished on each play while also keeping in mind the down-and-distance, field position and time remaining.
"Making sure we're very definitive with that," Fisher says. "Just him being more comfortable with that. As I say, letting his mind be free. The more times he hears the plays and sees them, he doesn't have to think. He just reacts and plays. The more familiar with it and the more times he reps them, the better he's going to be."
Fisher has also been unrelenting with Golson about managing bad plays and defensive pressure. He demands that his quarterback get rid of the ball instead of taking sacks.
That's resulted in Golson running the ball much less than he did while with the Fighting Irish.
"He's seeing things better," Fisher says of Golson. "The responses, the amount of information you get back is better. The quickness, the consistency and the accuracy are getting better and better each week."
And Golson has shown as much in the Seminoles' victories over Miami and Louisville the past two weeks. He completed 25 of 33 passes for 291 yards with a touchdown in a 29–24 defeat of the Hurricanes, setting season-highs for completions and attempts. He then bettered those numbers a week later in a 41–21 rout of the Cardinals, completing 26 of 38 passes for 372 yards with three touchdowns.
The pair of strong performances came after an anemic three-game stretch—dreary triumphs over South Florida, Boston College and Wake Forest, none of which have winning records—during which Golson wasn't nearly as effective.
"He's still a work-in-progress," Fisher says. "He has a lot of work to do, but he's getting there."
Yet Fisher is quick to credit Golson for his work ethic and dedication to his new teammates.
"He wants to win and be good," Fisher says. "He knows I'm not to going to bend and I'm going to do things my way, but I'm always going to be fair with him and never tell him anything that's detrimental to him. There's got to be a trust in that regard both ways. As long as you have that, no matter what happens, you're going to get that on the field."
Golson has also earned respect from his new teammates. They no longer poke fun at him about the two interceptions he threw against them last season, according to Cook.
"He's having a great year," Cook says. "I'm proud of him."
Sounds like Golson's having the last laugh.
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With blowout of K-State, Oklahoma is once again O.K.
After Oklahoma's disappointing 24–17 upset loss to Texas earlier this month, Sooners players gathered like they do following each game to review their mistakes and decide how to correct them.
"We didn't have enough time to watch it all," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops tells The Inside Read with a laugh. "We had to move on."
And the 17th-ranked Sooners did just that on Saturday with a 55–0 thumping of Kansas State on the road. The blowout was the first time the Wildcats had been shut out in 234 games, a streak that dated back to 1996, the same year the Big 12 began playing.
"We played with more of an edge," Stoops says. "We got off to a good start and got in good rhythm of the game."
That hadn't happened in the lackluster defeat to the Longhorns a week earlier. Oklahoma's players knew it, which made it painful to review the tape.
"We were somewhat disappointed in our effort the week before," Stoops says.
It was especially difficult for the defensive players to see their missed tackles, poor positioning and inability to use leverage. Stoops described Texas's first score—when wide receiver Marcus Johnson broke four tackles on a 24-yard touchdown reception—as "somewhat embarrassing."
"That was tough for our guys to watch, sitting there in front of their peers," Stoops says. "We didn't browbeat. We just said, 'We've got to be better than this. This isn't us. Take it personally. If we can just get these things corrected, we're going to be very good.'"
And the Sooners were in Saturday's romp at Kansas State, which Stoops attributes to the team playing harder than it had the previous week. He calls the win "one of the best we've had in a while."
"We just were in a good rhythm and a good place," Stoops says. "The game came to us very easily and that doesn't happen very often. We were on point on everything we did."
The triumph also kept Sooners head coach Bob Stoops (Mike's older brother) undefeated in the regular season following a loss, improving his streak to 32 straight wins.
"It was a tough experience and we learned from it," Mike Stoops says of losing to Texas. "That's the good thing about it. You hate for those things to happen, but they're going to happen. For whatever reason, they just happen. Our players really responded well from it. You can't let one game beat you twice and we didn't let that happen. That shows some maturity with our players."
And Oklahoma (5–1, 2–1 Big 12) will need that maturity if they are to continue to control their own destiny in the Big 12 title race. The Sooners' next three games are at home against Texas Tech, at Kansas and at home against Iowa State. They then close the regular season with three straight games against ranked opponents—at No. 2 Baylor, at home against No. 4 TCU and at No. 14 Oklahoma State—who have a combined 20–0 record.
"They'll enjoy this one," Stoops says of beating the Wildcats. "It's good. It gets us back in a good position. We control still what's in front of us. That's the good part."
And this week Oklahoma had plenty of good parts to watch.