It was McDaniel’s kind of contest

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Sitting inside the warm comfort of the Notre Dame Stadium interview room wearing a T-shirt and light jacket, Cam McDaniel, apparently thawed, insisted that he and his ND teammates had not concerned themselves with Saturday's January-in-November conditions.

Afterward, though, was a different story.

"Colder than any game I've ever played in, being from Texas," McDaniel said less than an hour after the Irish had toughed out a 23-13 victory over BYU in a game in which kickoff temperature was 26 degrees with winds gusting to 30 mph. "A little bit different."

McDaniel's day, production-wise, too was a little bit different. No, he was his same reliable self. Two hands on the ball. Full-speed ahead. First contact is only the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

Only this time, McDaniel did something he'd never done before in his nearly three years at Notre Dame, and that was rush for more than 100 yards.

McDaniel's 117 yards and 24 carries were both career highs as the Irish ran for 235 yards, exactly matching the number of yards they passed for, making it not only a bitter cold day, but a beautifully balanced day for Irish coach Brian Kelly.

His 8-3 team displayed an offensive and defensive toughness that wasn't entirely evident in the 28-21 loss at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

"This is the way we've got to play football. This is Notre Dame football. This is the way we need to play. This is what we're capable of playing," Kelly said. "It's a much more physical brand of football that we are capable of playing, and quite frankly, our team did that and they responded accordingly."

Responding especially accordingly was the 5-foot-10, 207-pound McDaniel, whose previous rushing high had been a 97-yard performance against USC, a game for which he gained much more attention for the photo-gone-viral that was snapped when his helmet flew off mid-run than he was for his rushing output.

Three straps versus the typical two have since mitigated that helmet problem, and the slick playing condition at beat-up Notre Dame Stadium contributed to his heavy workload against the Cougars. As the conditions grew worse, getting to the outside became more difficult.

"And Cam is more of a downhill, inside-the-tackle, north-and-south player," Kelly said. "So the game style fits his — and I don't want to box him into a particular kind of runner - — but he's a physical inside runner."

As McDaniel began to go more and more downhill, his numbers continued to climb.

"It feels awesome. As a running back, that's what you love, when you can get north and south and holes open up," McDaniel said. "And we just kind of do our thing from there."

Also doing its thing was the offensive line. Already banged up coming into the game, it lost starting center Nick Martin in the first half to a hyper-extended knee. The holes and downfield push, however, continued to be there, particularly for McDaniel.

"He's a hard-nosed runner. Any time we can get a couple holes he's going to hit them hard and be successful," left tackle Zack Martin said. "This was his kind of game and it showed." 574-235-6428 Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Notre Dame's Cam McDaniel runs the ball during the college football game between Notre Dame and Brigham Young on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN