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Prosise stars at running back, defense prevails in Blue-Gold Game

| Monday, April 20, 2015

The Blue-Gold Game might not count for anything, and there’s still an entire summer and fall camp left to determine starting positions, but it seemed everyone was excited about one player after Saturday’s game at LaBar Practice Complex.

No, that player wasn’t a quarterback, and his name wasn’t Everett Golson or Malik Zaire.

Instead, it was a player who came to Notre Dame as a safety, lined up with the receivers the past two seasons and lit up the spring game as a running back — senior C.J. Prosise.

Senior C.J. Prosise catches a punt during the Blue-Gold Game at LaBar Practice Complex. The receiver-turned-running back rushed for 67 yards on 12 carries in Saturday’s scrimmage.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Senior C.J. Prosise catches a punt during the Blue-Gold Game at LaBar Practice Complex. The receiver-turned-running back rushed for 67 yards on 12 carries in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Prosise collected 64 yards on 12 carries out of the backfield to lead the offense, which wasn’t able to suppress a second-half rally from the defense and lost the intrasquad game, 36-34.

Prosise had cross-trained with the receivers and running backs throughout the spring and flashed the gains he made in the backfield Saturday, including a game-long 15-yard rush in the third quarter that ended with a big hit on junior safety Max Redfield.

“C.J. Prosise was impressive with not only his ability to break into the second level, but he showed his toughness in lowering his pads and playing physical,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s really rounding into a — he’s a guy that you’re going to fear. When you turn on the film, you’re going to look at him and go, ‘He scares me.’”

Though he played almost exclusively as a running back in the game and said he mainly practiced with the backs this spring, Prosise said he’ll continue to cross-train in the upcoming months.

“In the summer, I’m just going to push it as hard as I can, work as hard as I can,” he said. “I’ll be playing both, and I’ll be working with receivers. When we go in to through with receivers, I’ll be with receivers, and with running backs when we’re taking steps or doing handoffs, I’ll be with the running backs.”

Kelly said if Prosise continues to show the strength he’s exhibited throughout the spring, culminating with the leading performance Saturday, he could challenge his fellow running backs, juniors Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, for a starting job.

“I’m not going to paint him into any particular position or category,” Kelly said. “If he’s the best running back, he’s going to start. If he’s the best wide receiver, he’s going to start.

“So it’s my job, it’s our job to get the best 11 players on the field, and right now, it’s hard to make the case that he’s not one of the best 11.”

Prosise and the offense got out to a quick start Saturday, holding a 28-9 lead at halftime thanks to a rushing touchdown on the game’s first drive by Golson and passing scores from Zaire to sophomore receiver Justin Brent and junior receiver Will Fuller, the latter a 68-yard long for the afternoon.

Right before the midway break, 6-foot-5.5, 315-pound senior offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley provided the highlight of the game, pulling in a 14-yard pass from Golson and trucking 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior cornerback Cole Luke along the sidelines, sparking a postgame debate over whether Luke tackled Stanley or vice versa.

“As we were going back and forth on academics and he was really committed to coming back to Notre Dame for a lot of reasons, the number one reason for him coming back was to get that football today,” Kelly joked.

Golson began the game with the first-team offense, while Zaire took reps with the second team. The quarterbacks switched after each had completed two drives, and both were on the bench by the fourth quarter.

Zaire completed eight of his 14 attempts for 137 yards and the two scores. Golson connected on seven of his 15 passes and threw one interception, a pick by Redfield over Zaire that ended with a defensive touchdown on a fan-submitted play that featured both quarterbacks.

“We really wanted to center this game, particularly in the first half, around the quarterbacks and really wanted to put them in a position where they could utilize their skill set, and I thought we did that,” Kelly said. “ … I thought they both competed at a high level in the first half, and I think we all say they’re all capable of playing championship football.”

The tide started to turn towards the defense after Redfield’s pick-six, however. It held the offense scoreless on three consecutive possessions to put points on the board under the scoring system altered for the spring game and took the lead midway through the fourth quarter on a safety from sophomore defensive lineman Daniel Cage.

The offense mustered up one final score on a late touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Montgomery VanGorder to sophomore tight end Nic Weishar, but it was not enough to earn the win.

The Irish return to the field for their season opener against Texas on Sept. 5.

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About Mary Green

Current Assistant Managing Editor, former Sports Editor of The Observer | Follow Mary on Twitter: @maryegreen15

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