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Freshman Folston carries the load, scores decisive TD

Aaron Sant-Miller | Sunday, November 3, 2013

With less than four minutes left in the game, the ball at the Navy 1-yard line and No. 25 Notre Dame down three, Irish senior quarterback Tommy Rees turned and handed the ball to a teammate three classes his junior. Irish freshman running back Tarean Folston took the ball from his quarterback, leapt over the pile at the goal line and put the Irish (7-2) ahead for good with 3:47 left to play Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

“I was just reading my keys,” Folston said. “It was a big mess and I just jumped over it. I have never dove over an O-line or D-line in my life. [It was just] instincts.”

Against the Midshipmen (4-4), Folston rushed for 140 yards on 18 carries. 

“[Folston] was running well, and [we] just felt like we’d stick with him in terms of the way he was running,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “Generally speaking, there was only one run that I did not like, where he did not go north and south. … We’re looking for guys to go north and south and make people miss, and I think if you look at all his runs, he by and large did that.”

Through the first eight games of the season, Folston totaled 116 rushing yards and only carried the ball 22 times, a mark he nearly matched against Navy.

“I think [Folston’s] conditioned better,” Kelly said. “I don’t know that he would have made that many carries early in the year. He wasn’t conditioned well enough to be in there. “

For the freshman running back, practices have been essential to his conditioning regimen this season.

“In practice, we have very intense days,” Folston said. “As long as you go full speed every day, I feel like practice will get you more and more conditioned each day. In college football, you have to be in pretty good shape, so coming out with 18 carries today really shows how much my conditioning has improved.”

On Notre Dame’s final drive (excluding the three kneel-downs at the end) late in the fourth quarter, Folston took seven carries for 46 yards before punching the ball in from one yard out. As a whole, Folston ran for at least 10 yards on seven of his 18 carries.

“It started up front for us,” Rees said. “Those big guys up front played a heck of a game, and we were able to run the ball fine.”

Likewise, Folston was quick to give credit to his offensive line.

“The big guys up front did an excellent job of blocking,” Folston said. “I couldn’t have done any of the running without them. The O-line takes pride in what they do. They just did a great job tonight and that helped.”

At the same time, Folston’s efforts with the ball in his hands did not go unnoticed and were not entirely unexpected, Rees explained.

“We’ve known from day one he could provide another weapon for us offensively,” Rees said. “[Folston] ran hard and took care of the ball. He didn’t play like a freshman tonight. He played like a guy who really knew what was going on out there.”

Not including the go-ahead touchdown run, the freshman back had only two carries on which he did not gain at least three yards and averaged 7.8 yards per rush.

“[Folston] was able to make some people miss and get some tough yards,” Rees said, “I’m really happy for the kid. I think he’s got the right attitude to keep moving forward and keep working hard for us. I think he can be a pretty good player for us down the road.”

The young Irish back will continue down that road Saturday, when Notre Dame will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers.

“Everybody’s time comes,” Folston said. “I feel like my time came [on Saturday]. All I can do, or the team can do, is just continue to work hard and prepare for Pitt.”

Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at asantmil@nd.edu