Notre Dame football: Folston puts air in ND run game

Bob Wieneke

SOUTH BEND -- It had not happened in pee-wee football.

Not in high school ball back in Cocoa, Fla.

And not during his brief college career.

Nope, Tarean Folston had never gone airborne to gain yardage.

"Never. Never," the Notre Dame freshman running back said. "I've never dove over an O-line, D-line in my life."

Until Saturday.

Folston's leap from the 1-yard line with 5:08 remaining in the game provided the winning points in Notre Dame's 38-34 victory over Navy at ND Stadium.

"From my left eye, I just saw someone fly out of the corner of my eye," Irish center Nick Martin said, "and I knew he was scoring."

The 5-foot-9, 207-pound Folston, who credited instincts as the genesis for the leap, likely vaulted himself into a more prominent role in the offense after an 18-carry, 140-yard game. In fact, in seven career games -- Folston did not play in the Week 2 loss at Michigan -- Folston had run for 116 yards on 22 carries.

Not since Julius Jones had 146 rushing yards against Navy in 1999 has an Irish freshman back enjoyed such a productive day.

Irish coach Brian Kelly, his team 7-2 entering next Saturday's game at Pittsburgh, credited better conditioning and Folston having the hot hand as reasons why he rode the freshman. In fact, 15 of Folston's 18 carries came in the second half, 11 in the fourth quarter, eight on the final drive.

And Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo's take

"What can I say?" said Niumatalolo, whose team fell to 4-4. "He had a heck of a game."

Folston agreed with Kelly's assessment that conditioning played a role in his expanded role.

Putting a fine point on when he felt the capability to take on a more expanded role, however, wasn't as easy as he made running the ball look.

"You don't necessarily feel it," he said. "It's just, once you get in you just keep going and keep going and keep going and keep going, and so it's not necessarily something that you just feel all of a sudden, it's just there."

Conditioning, however, only counts for so much. Prior to Folston's last carry, something else kicked in.

"Oh man, I just saw the end zone. That's all I saw," Folston said. "Conditioning probably did play a part, but it was the adrenaline."

And in turn the Irish running game played like it had some extra caffeine.

Ranked 95th nationally entering Saturday with an average of 136.4 yards per game, Folston spearheaded a rushing attack that generated 264 yards against the Midshipmen, giving the Irish their most productive day running the ball this season.

It's been various backs this season serving as ND's top carrier. This time, it was Folston.

"Everybody's time comes," Folston said, "and I feel like my time came today."

Notre Dame's Tarean Folston picks up yards during the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN