Prosise more precise with second touchdown opportunity

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND — C.J. Prosise didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

Twice the junior wide receiver found himself open in the end zone with a should-be touchdown pass from Everett Golson floating his way.

The first one he dropped. The second one he made sure to hold on to.

“Honestly, I was just thinking about catching the ball,” Prosise said of his 53-yard touchdown catch with five seconds left in the second quarter of a 48-17 Notre Dame victory over Rice. “I wasn’t thinking about the touchdown. I wasn’t thinking about what I was going to do, what was going on. I was just thinking about catching the ball.”

So what happened on the first one – the dropped 55-yard touchdown attempt early in the second quarter?

“I might have been thinking about some other things,” Prosise said.

He may have been a little too excited to complete the first catch. After all, Prosise entered Saturday’s season opener without a collegiate touchdown catch in his two previous seasons with the Irish. Prosise’s only other touchdowns in Notre Dame Stadium came in the annual Blue-Gold games.

The eventual touchdown catch brought a sense of relief. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound slot receiver put himself on the highlight reel in a blowout victory.

“It’s a lift off your shoulders,” Prosise said. “You get that first one and you feel like things should start picking up.”

Both plays came as a result of a little improvisation from Prosise and Golson. The senior quarterback escaped the pocket looking for his receivers to get open. Prosise recognized where Golson was and found openings behind the secondary for the deep throws. It’s a possibility that Golson creates with his mobility and arm strength.

“It’s awesome. It’s really just backyard football. You just get open,” Prosise said. “When he starts running, its gets open and make the play once he throws it. It’s awesome to have that. Not many teams can say they have that.”

The backyard football comes with a bit of planning. Scramble drills in practice establish a system in which the receivers spread out to different levels of the secondary. Depending on where Golson is running in comparison to his receivers, they will try to find openings deep, in the middle and shallow across the field

The key is recognizing when Golson leaves the pocket.

“For the most part, he likes to stay in the pocket and complete his throws in the pocket,” Prosise said. “Especially when you have a deep route, you try to sneak a quick peek back and see what he’s doing. If he’s moving around, you have to get open and find space.”

Prosise caught just the one pass for 53 yards but was a crucial part of a balanced wide receiver corps on Saturday. Golson completed passes to seven different players with sophomore Will Fuller leading the way with four catches for 85 yards and one touchdown.

Head coach Brian Kelly expects the variety of targets to remain as Notre Dame moves forward without a true No. 1 receiver.

“I don’t think we’re going to have one particular guy that’s going to eat up all the catches,” Kelly said. “That’s what you’re going to see. The identity of this team will be that there’s not one guy. It’s going to spread all the way across the board. Everybody’s going to get touches.”

The lack of a go-to wide receiver changes the expectations for a receiver like Prosise on a play-to-play basis. Last year, he knew he wasn’t likely to get the ball with Tommy Rees at quarterback. He played a limited role mostly in blocking situations. He expected his role to increase this season, but so should everyone else.

“You have to expect the ball on every play,” Prosise said. “There’s not one guy that Ev’s looking to throw it up to or give it out to. Last year we had TJ (Jones). If Tommy got in trouble, he was looking for TJ. With Everett, you have to run your routes, and you have to get open.”

Prosise did it at least twice on Saturday. If he dropped the second one, he was going to get an earful on the sidelines. But no one wanted him to make that catch more than himself.

“I was giving myself more grief than anyone else,” Prosise said. “I needed to redeem myself, and I wanted to redeem myself.”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

The ball slips through the hands of Notre Dame wide receiver C.J. Prosise in the end zone during the second quarter of Saturday's game. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)