Tarean Folston earns carries, makes most of them for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND — Tarean Folston has his flaws.

When it comes to being a roommate, wide receiver Will Fuller said Folston’s propensity to leave the lights on late at night is his biggest one.

On the field Saturday, Folston kept the lights on for Notre Dame’s offense. The sophomore running back scored three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving — in the 50-43 win over North Carolina. He earned the trust from head coach Brian Kelly to be the workhorse back in the second half.

“Today he did what he was asked to do and what we ask all of our backs to do,” Kelly said. “They have to block, they have to catch the ball out of the backfield, and they have to run hard.”

In other words, be as flawless as possible.

Folston developed a rhythm despite receiving only three carries in the first half. But he turned one of those carries into a six-yard touchdown, his first of the season, and also caught three passes for 58 yards. In the second half, the football found his hands frequently.

“You get a better feel for the flow of the game if you stay in more,” Folston said. “I’m still trying to make the most of my opportunities. That’s what I feel like I did today.”

His biggest opportunity came in the fourth quarter with the Irish trailing 36-35. As the offense faced third-and-goal from the nine-yard line, Folston leaked into the flat to the right of quarterback Everett Golson. As Golson scanned his options in the end zone, he found Folston open with just one man to beat. Folston hauled in the pass, shook the North Carolina defender and scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Folston made it sound easier than it looked.

“It looked like Ev needed someone to bail him out,” Folston said. “He found me, I caught the ball and turned around, saw a defender in my face, made a move and I was in the end zone.”

It required a series of fundamentals that Folston has sharpened midway through his sophomore season at Notre Dame. Most importantly, he didn’t let the first Tar Heel bring him down.

“My dad always preached to me, you can’t be tackled by the first man,” Folston said. “You have to make one miss at least.”

And if he doesn’t?

“I’d be real mad” Folston said. “I’d be mad, and I’m pretty sure all those fans would have been too. The coaches would have been too.”

The coaches took note of Folston’s effort earlier in the game. His ability to run through would-be tacklers kept him in the game over Cam McDaniel and Greg Bryant. Folston finished with 18 carries for 98 yards and five catches for 71 yards.

“They're physical, strong backs, and once we saw he was going to run in that kind of manner and demeanor, he was going to get more carries,” Kelly said. “He got the game ball today.”

Folston’s third touchdown came on another six-yard run in the fourth quarter. The score put the game out of reach with a 50-36 lead and just 2:19 left in the game. He arrived in the end zone untouched with the help of his offensive line.

“I feel like me or any other back that would have gone in today would have had a big game behind those big guys,” Folston said.

Folston said before the season that finding the end zone more often would be one of his biggest goals. He celebrates each touchdown with a salute to the crowd, a couple pounds of his chest and a point to the sky for his grandfather and step-dad.

“I can’t tell you how happy I was. It was very exciting,” Folston said. “My first three of the year. What a great time to do it.”

TJames@NDInsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

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Notre Dame’s Tarean Folston, right, pushes off North Carolina’s Nathan Staub during the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina college football game on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN