Youth and depth power Irish in win over Texas
Manuel De Jesus | Sunday, September 6, 2015
Despite several key departures this offseason, No. 11 Notre Dame flashed both its youth and depth Saturday during its 38-3 rout over Texas.
Defensive linemen sophomore Jhonny Williams and freshman Kolin Hill both transferred this summer, and senior defensive tackle Jarron Jones went down with injury. On the offensive side, running back Greg Bryant left the University due to academic issues.
In their place, several young Irish players stepped up alongside the 18 returning starters the Irish featured and more than held their own.
Freshman running back Josh Adams took his first collegiate handoff in the first quarter from junior quarterback Malik Zaire and catapulted out of the backfield for a 14-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Adams scored again on a 25-yard run, going nearly untouched into the endzone.
Sophomore guard Quentin Nelson made his first career start and formed part of a line that allowed just a single sack and helped establish a dominant ground game that paved the way for Adams’s two touchdowns and 214 rushing yards.
In addition to Nelson, junior right tackle Mike McGlinchey made his second collegiate start and first in the regular season. Senior lineman Ronnie Stanley praised both newcomers, and said it was crucial to have depth that could fill in at a moment’s notice.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Specifically Quenton [Nelson], I tell him ‘Hey, when you face Sheldon Day, you’re not going to face a better three-tech all year,’ and you kind of see his face and he gets excited and he’s ready to play.”
Senior running back C.J Prosise, who carried the ball 20 times for 98 yards, also raved about the offensive line’s dominance.
“I think my offensive line did an amazing job,” Prosise said. “They gave a great push all night. We could really do anything we wanted to in the run game. I think that was a big reason for our win.”
Freshman defensive lineman Jerry Tillery pummeled Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard in the second quarter for his first career sack, which forced a third-and-long situation.
“We have some young guys that we think are still capable of playing for us that are down on the depth chart a little bit,” Kelly said. “They kind of have that look like, ‘Well, I may never get out of this position that I’m in.’ I told our coaches: It’s important that you go to these guys on Monday and let them know, they are probably going to get an opportunity to play this year. And to continue to work with them and continue to build their confidence that when we call on you, be ready, because we think we have some depth.”
Adams came into the game early in the first quarter to take over for junior Tarean Folston, who injured his right knee and missed the rest of the game. Although Adams carried the ball just five times, the Warrington, Pennsylvania native gained 52 yards to go with his scores.
“I knew he was going to be a great running back,” Stanley said. “I didn’t know he was going to perform like he did today. I’m very happy for him and very pleased with the way he performed. He is always there working and doing his job.”
Kelly also said he thought highly of Adams since spring practice because of his football IQ.
“He was able to pick up all the protections early on,” Kelly said. “And any time when a freshman can come in and pick up all the protections early on, it’s been my feeling that he’s ready to play, provided he’s got the skill and also what kind of skill he has. … He’s got elite speed. He’s got great size. Got good ball skills. and obviously he’s a kid that we believe in.”
Notre Dame gained 527 total yards on offense to the Longhorns’ 163. In addition to the younger players on the team, the offense also relied on veterans to spread the field.
Seven different receivers caught passes from Zaire, and that number could have been nine had freshman tight end Alize Jones and sophomore tight end Tyler Luatua not dropped passes. There were also seven different ball carriers, in addition to Zaire, who had at least one rushing attempt
“It’s the best depth we’ve had,” Kelly said. “I’d rather not call on it continuously, but every football team is going to have to deal with some injuries, and we know we are going to have some after this game, as well.”