NCAA

Golson hopes Notre Dame's season ends on BCS note

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Golson hopes Notre Dame's season ends on BCS note

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) When Everett Golson sees a piano, he usually sits down and starts entertaining. He plays several instruments, keeps a keyboard in his room and loves to sing.

Music is a huge part of his life, perhaps only topped by basketball.

And in Golson's spare time, he plays quarterback for Notre Dame.

``He's pretty good at his hobby,'' Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. ``This being his hobby.''

Golson's biggest game - and biggest opportunity - awaits Monday night when the top-ranked Fighting Irish (12-0) take on No. 2 Alabama (12-1) for the BCS national title. Golson's season started with him winning a competition to be the quarterback for a then-unranked team, and now he's got the chance to lead Notre Dame back to the top of college football.

Or in musical vernacular, to be ND's maestro.

``It is a big stage,'' Golson said. ``I don't ride the wave too much. I'm kind of just focused on what's played between the yard lines, what's played on the field. Can't really focus on everything that's off the field because that's out of my control.''

A redshirt freshman, Golson didn't play last season, instead running the scout team. He won starter job entering this season, yet even when he was picked to be under center as Notre Dame opened the season in Ireland against Navy, there was some question about how long he would actually be able to keep his spot.

Golson had all the answers. His numbers aren't catchy - 11 passing touchdowns in 11 appearances - but his record is unblemished, 10-0 as a starter.

``I think he understood more of what our coaches wanted from him,'' Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert said. ``When they would coach him up on something, he kind of better understood that as the year went on.''

One of the major issues Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had with the Irish offense a year ago was its penchant for turning the ball over.

Golson rarely dealt with that problem.

Poised more often than not, Golson has only five interceptions in 282 attempts this season. He averages 191 passing yards per game - only 79th-best in the nation - but he's not necessarily asked to win games with wild throwing sprees, either. Kelly's mandate was simply for his quarterback to avoid the big mistake that would lose games.

So far, so good.

``First-ever college game in Dublin, Ireland, first-ever home game against Purdue, road game primetime Michigan State, night game at Notre Dame against Michigan, on the road at Oklahoma, on the road at USC, coming off the bench ... take any other quarterback this year and try to figure out if they've gone through as much as Everett Golson,'' Martin said. ``To me it's not even close. Not even close.''

It goes deeper than the experiences of 2012.

In Golson's mind, not getting a chance to play in 2011 may have been more significant in pushing his development along.

``I think me being put back on the scout team, it was just really a humbling experience for me,'' Golson said. ``Coming in, I thought I was ready to play or had that confidence that I was ready to play, but it wasn't that way for me. I think being put back on the scout team, like I said, really humbled me, made me kind of reassess myself.''

Even the Crimson Tide can see that.

When Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart first started breaking down tape of the Irish, he predictably watched every play of every game several times. And by the end of that film study, Smart knew the Golson who started the season isn't remotely close to the player who now is tasked with running the Irish offense.

``You can't give the guy the ability to run all around and make plays, yet that's what he's going to do, so it's who's got the greater will to contain and keep him in the pocket,'' Smart said. ``So it's a tough thing. The guy is going to scramble. He's going to be a better, quicker athlete than the people we have up front.''

The thing the Irish rave about most when talking about Golson is his confidence.

Even when things were tough at times this season - particularly the game against Pittsburgh when Notre Dame trailed 20-6 entering the fourth quarter, then won 29-26 on his touchdown run in the third overtime - Golson continually showed he can do the job.

``He's a very important part of our offense and he's a big playmaker,'' Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``Any time we can take a hit off of him, it's going to be big. He's a playmaker. He makes plays.''

If that happens Monday, Golson may make football's equivalent of beautiful music.

``The race is not given to the swift or the strong ... but it's given to the one that endures to the end,'' Golson said. ``We're obviously the underdogs coming into this game. ... Alabama has, like I said, a great defense, great team, bigger, faster, stronger. But it's really about who's going to endure to the end.''

Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and North Carolina State overcame a second-half scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in a 53-51 victory against Virginia on Monday night.

C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

Viginia (12-6, 4-4) used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State scoring drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. But Jericole Hellems hit a 3-pointer for N.C. State with 3:38 left and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Markell Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems' putback gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded.

UP NEXT

The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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