Irish offense rolls as Adams steps up with Prosise out
Zach Klonsinski | Monday, November 9, 2015
PITTSBURGH — While the clock wound down on the first quarter Saturday, the largest part of Notre Dame’s rushing attack this season slowly walked up the tunnel towards the Irish locker room.
As senior running back C.J. Prosise gingerly made his way off the Heinz Field turf in Pittsburgh, taking with him a season total of 975 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground as well as another 291 yards and a score receiving, No. 5 Notre Dame turned to true freshman running back Josh Adams to fill the void.
Adams proved he was more than up to the task, torching a Pittsburgh defense that had only allowed 138 yards per game to opponents’ rushing attacks this season before kickoff Saturday. The Warrington, Pennsylvania, native finished with 147 yards on 20 carries, helping the Irish to 175 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
After the game, Adams said seeing the Irish cycle through options at the quarterback and running back positions all season keeps everyone ready to go if their number is called, as his was Saturday.
“I think we’re all prepared for something like that,” Adams said. “God forbid someone goes down, but we all have the mentality that we need to do our job, we need to stay focused just in case.”
Adams was holding the game ball in his hand while speaking with the media after the game.
“That felt good,” Adams said, describing the moment Irish head coach Brian Kelly handed him the honor. “Anytime anyone gets the game ball, that means we did well as a team, and that means whoever got the game ball, that guy contributed. So it just felt good to be able to help my team out and be able to get in there, play hard and play for my teammates.”
Adams said the award did not belong to just him, however.
“Our offensive line is just incredible, and they make it easy on me,” Adams said. “I just have to go in there and do my job because they’re really in there fighting in the trenches for me, so I have to do the best I can. And with all the running backs, they’re a big part of our success, so we just have to congratulate them for working so hard for us, and we just have to do our job as a unit.”
In a storyline that has become all too familiar to the Irish this season, a starting skill player went down and the team had to rely on his backup, but Adams said the team has embraced this mentality.
“It was just next man in, and I just did my best to do what I could to help the team,” Adams said. “Practice how you play, and just practice hard all week.”
Graduate student offensive lineman Nick Martin said the change didn’t affect the offensive line’s mindset that much either.
“We put a lot of pride up front in doing that,” Martin said of paving the way for Adams. “We know if we block … whoever gets the ball can go run well. C.J.’s a great back, unfortunate that he went down, but next-man-in-mentality.
“At first we didn’t really know [Prosise] was out as an offensive line. Obviously after a few plays we did, but next-man-in. That’s what we want. People are recruited for this system, and that’s what we do.”
Martin said the line had full confidence in Adams’ ability to pick up where Prosise went off, saying the two are very similar in their running styles.
“Both unbelievable running backs,” Martin said. “ … They’re pretty good at going north-south and making plays.”
Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer also said Adams and Prosise resembled each other coming out of the backfield.
“[Prosise is] a little more patient than Josh, but at the same time Josh does some things that C.J. doesn’t do,” Kizer said. “Josh is an explosive guy that hits the hole and goes hard while C.J. is the type of guy who sees a hole collapse, he’s able to adjust in that way.
“There’s not a whole lot different about them. They kind of have the same style of running.”
Kelly said Adams has all the tools as a freshman and just needs to add more strength to compliment his physical abilities.
“[Adams is] a big, physical kid,” Kelly said. “Keeps his feet moving, as you saw, and he’s very difficult to tackle. Again, leg drive, physical characteristics of this kid are such that he’s only going to get bigger, faster and stronger. It’s going to be exciting to watch him develop.”
But perhaps the highest praise Adams received following the win Saturday came from someone who has the job of tackling him in practice.
“I call him Eric Dickerson,” junior linebacker Jaylon Smith said about the freshman running back. “He’s very elusive, and it’s going to be even scarier next year when he adds strength to it.
“The sky’s the limit.”