No. 6 Notre Dame run game keeps going despite injuries
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Not much has slowed the Notre Dame rushing attack this season.
Not the preseason loss of Greg Bryant, last season’s second-leading rusher, because of academic ineligibility. Not the loss of Tarean Folston, last year’s leading rusher, to a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Texas. Not leading rusher C.J. Prosise sustaining a concussion against Pittsburgh last week.
With Prosise out, Josh Adams rushed for 147 yards on 20 carries, a yard shy of tying the school record for rushing in a game by a freshman set by Jerome Heavens in 1975 against Georgia Tech, in the game best remembered for walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger playing the final 27 seconds. Prosise has passed the first test in the concussion protocol testing, but coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that he still needs to pass another before he is cleared to play for the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish against Wake Forest (3-6) in the final home game.
Prosise is listed as the starter on the depth chart. Kelly said even if Prosise is ready to go, Adams’ performance against Pitt earned him some carries.
“I think he can lessen the load for C.J. and provide us with another option in there as well,” Kelly said.
Kelly said in some ways Adams is ahead of Prosise because he’s been playing the position longer. Prosise started at defensive back for the Irish before switching to receiver and then running back and looks to make defenders miss.
“I think it’s just a natural development of a running back where Josh just expects to run through a tackler or two, and C.J.’s still feeling his way through that,” Kelly said.
The Irish are averaging 220.6 yards a game rushing, which is 61.1 yards a game more than a year ago and the highest average for the Irish since averaging 269.5 yards in 1996. The stat is skewed by the fact the Irish rushed for 457 yards against Massachusetts. But even without that game the Irish are averaging 191 yards. That’s the best since averaging 213.5 yards a game in 2000.
Kelly believes there are a number of reasons for the improved rushing game, including the coaching staff putting more of an emphasis on running and an improved offensive line.
“I think that that’s a big difference from last year to this year and the way they’re working together,” Kelly said.
Another factor is Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer are better with the read-option than Everett Golson was last year, making it more difficult on opposing defenses.
Notes: Kelly has tried to avoid the playoff talk, but said Tuesday he has no problem with one-loss teams being ranked ahead of undefeated teams by the playoff committee. He said important factors are strength of schedule and the “eye test.” ″I don’t think that you can stumble more than once. I think that’s where the cutoff point is,” he said. “You can’t be inconsistent and be really good, because that can’t be part of the equation.” ... Kelly said defensive tackle Jarron Jones, who tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in mid-August, could be ready for the postseason. The injury was initially announced as a season-ending injury.