Running away with it
Kit Loughran | Monday, September 28, 2015
Five rushing touchdowns and 457 total rushing yards paved the way for No. 6 Notre Dame’s 62-27 win over Massachusetts on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish (4-0) out-ran the Minutemen (0-3) by more than 300 yards on their way to 681 total offensive yards and Notre Dame’s highest scoring output since 1996.
“We were pretty good up front offensively,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “We were able to control the line of scrimmage around the football today.
“I think that was the big difference in the ballgame.”
Senior running back C.J. Prosise opened the scoring on a 57-yard rush to put the Irish on the scoreboard with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter. Prosise rushed for two touchdowns and 149 yards on 15 carries and became the first Notre Dame player with three straight 100-yard games since Darius Walker in 2005.
The Minutemen, though, kept the Irish within striking distance in the first half, shrinking Notre Dame’s lead from 14-0 to 14-13 and then again from 21-13 to 21-20.
“Any team that plays Notre Dame is going to bring their best game,” Prosise said. “We knew they were going to come out with some trick plays and do whatever they could to stay in the game.”
With four minutes left in the first half, the game reached its turning point. The Irish defense held Massachusetts to a single yard on three plays after sophomore punter Tyler Newsome and junior cornerback Devin Butler combined to pin the Minutemen at their own one-yard line.
Freshman receiver C.J. Sanders then responded with a 50-yard punt return. He cut at the 35-yard line, again at the 10 and then ran straight into the end zone to put the Irish up 28-20 with 3:21 left in the half. Sanders’s touchdown return marked the first for Notre Dame since Golden Tate’s touchdown return against Pittsburgh in 2009.
“I was really excited,” Sanders said. “It was 21-20 at the time, and I told my guys to give me some time, and I’ll make a play. I knew the punt return shifted momentum. I was thankful and blessed that I was able to help the team.”
“They were running up to me,” Sanders said. “I think that was the first one since Golden Tate.
“Everybody was really excited. They haven’t seen that in a while.”
Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer connected with senior receiver Chris Brown on a seven-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the first half to give the Irish a 35-20 halftime lead.
After the break, the Irish let the Minutemen only find the end zone once more, while Notre Dame added three more touchdowns to its total.
“We had to come out after halftime and score,” Prosise said. “After that, it just took off and we got our confidence up.”
The Irish have now rushed for more than 200 yards in five straight games, dating back to their 2014 Music City Bowl win over LSU. The last time Notre Dame started a season with four-straight 200-yard rushing games was 1989, when the Irish hit the mark 11 games in a row. It also marks the longest streak at any point in the season since the Irish ran for at least 200 yards in six consecutive games in 2000.
Kizer was 15 of 22 passing for 207 yards, recording two touchdowns and one interception, while freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush was 3 of 5 passing for 17 yards in relief. Adding to the Irish running game, Wimbush scored on a 58-yard run late in the third quarter. Junior receiver Will Fuller also added his sixth touchdown catch of the season for the Irish.
“[The game today] was great,” Kizer said. “The offensive line was balling like no other today.
“Hopefully we can continue to get into a routine in the way that we prepare, and that I prepare, for each game when it comes to the small things. I learned from some mistakes from last game in terms of how I should prepare the night before, so things worked a little better this week.”
Kizer and the Irish take these lessons as they head into their next game at No. 12 Clemson on Saturday.