All dressed up and nowhere to go.
Midway through the 2011 football season, Mike Golic Jr. wondered if his time at Notre Dame would ever come.
The sand in the hourglass was quickly running out for the sporadically-used offensive lineman.
“There are times when you get down,” said Golic, a fifth-year right guard. “I had a tremendous group of people around me -- my family, my close friends here and back home who kept me positive and reminded me the hard work was going to pay off. Staying ready was the most important thing.”
Golic’s dad, Mike Golic Sr., had an appreciation for the big picture. Four years as a defensive end with the Irish (1981-84), allowed for a keen insight and a message that carried credibility.
“All you can control is what’s on your end,” is the advice Mike Jr., got from his dad. “You can’t force anything else to happen. You’re not going to force people to do what they’re not going to do. You have to stay sharp; stay ready. I was a backup at a couple positions (center and guard) last season. If I wasn’t ready when my number was called, I’m letting everyone else down as well as myself.
“Staying ready and being accountable for what I was responsible for with my role on the team was the message I got.”
Taking the advice seriously was critical when Golic’s number was finally called. Center Braxston Cave went down with a foot injury against Navy last season, and the Irish turned to Golic to snap the last four games.
That opportunity helped him settle into a starting role at right guard this season. Head coach Brian Kelly’s “next man in” philosophy was paying dividends.
“(Getting on the field regularly) allows you to see so much,” Golic said. '"See a little, see a lot,’ that’s what (offensive line) coach (Harry) Hiestand always says. Having that experience, having played so many snaps, it allows me to look at what the defense is showing and gather so much more information pre-snap, as opposed to having to react completely to what the defense does, on the snap of the ball.
“That helps with communication up front; just being able to execute at a higher level.”
Golic and the rest of the Irish line -- which has been intact through every game this season -- will need every advantage possible to be productive against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game Jan. 7.
The Crimson Tide defense has yielded 160 passing and 80 rushing yards a game this season, as well as 32 percent of its third-down conversion possibilities. Alabama’s depth is obvious, as 17 players have at least 20 tackles. Notre Dame has 14 players with 20 or more stops.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley is the leader with 99 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks. Linebacker Adrian Hubbard has 10 tackles for loss and six sacks, while defensive lineman Ed Stinson has 8.5 TFLs and three sacks. Alabama has collected 33 sacks this season. Notre Dame’s offensive line has given up 16.
“(Alabama) is a very talented group on defense; a group that’s always going to be fighting to get to the ball,” Golic said. “These guys are playmakers. They want to get to the ball. Our ability to stay with them until the echo of the whistle, and to keep pressure on the ‘down’ guys and the linebackers -- when you get on them -- so they can’t get off to make those plays, gives our running backs a chance; gives our quarterback a chance.”
One key factor will be how much the offensive line allows Irish quarterback Everett Golson to function. Given time, Golson can cause a defense problems. Then again, that time will be precious.
Notre Dame’s offense heads into the showdown averaging 203 yards rushing and 219 passing.
“We can’t give (Alabama) anything,” Golic said. “It’s a challenge enough to block players at this level, in the game we’re playing, this is the best of the best. If you give them any little bit, they’re going to take advantage of it. They’re already playing at a high level.
“(We have to make sure) our eyes are in the right place; our footwork’s right; our targets are correct. We can’t give them that extra little bit of wiggle room. We have to be on them all the way.
“They roll a lot of guys through on their defensive front. They have a lot of big, solid bodies, just like our defense. That’s such a huge advantage for us, to practice against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country -- big, strong talented guys who play very similar to the Alabama guys.”
This is the lull before the storm. Gradually, the Irish are building their game plan in anticipation of the ultimate battle.
“As a player, you get into that routine where you have your three days of physical preparation during the week, getting ready for a game,” Golic said. “Then you play every Saturday. You’re always chomping at the bit to get to that next game.
“Credit our coaching staff, and our player personnel staff, with laying out a good plan for us; keeping us ready, keeping us on the field; and realizing we’re building to a crescendo so we can be playing our best football Jan. 7.”
It won’t just be a shot at a national title. For Golic, it will be his last appearance in a Notre Dame uniform.
“Right now, to be anything but focused on the task at hand (would be) a disservice to everyone else,” Golic said. “I could selfishly think, ‘This is my last game.’ But, we have a job to do, we have a goal in winning this national championship game.”
Golic has waited too long to start being selfish now.