Notebook: C.J. Prosise thriving in Notre Dame's backfield
SOUTH BEND — C.J. Prosise grinned at the hypothetical.
What if Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had dreamt up this running back experiment earlier in the senior’s career?
“Well it’s definitely great so far,” Prosise understated after rushing for 198 yards on 22 carries and three TDs Saturday in his third game at his new position and only second start there.
“But if I could have done it earlier, that would be great too.”
The former safety and ex-wide receiver helped control the clock and ease the burden on redshirt freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer making his first collegiate start, as eighth-ranked Notre Dame subdued No. 14 and favored Georgia Tech, 30-22, at Notre Dame Stadium.
The 198 yards are the most by an Irish player since Julius Jones ripped off 218 on 23 carries against Stanford 12 seasons ago. He became the first Irish back to score three TDs in a game since Jonas Gray did so against Navy in 2011.
Even better history, Prosise’s 91-yard scoring run with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter is believed to be the longest running play in the history of Notre Dame Stadium.
Prosise’s first carry in each of his first three games has gone for a first down.
“He’s always had a natural knack for scoring a touchdown when you needed it,” said Irish linebacker Greer Martini, a high school teammate of Prosise’s at Woodberry Forest in Virginia. “But I never saw him as a running back.”
As a team, the Irish rushed for one fewer yard (215 to 216) than the nation’s reigning team rushing champion, Georgia Tech, did Saturday.
It was ND’s third straight 200-yard team rushing performance and the first time it has strung three together since 2012 (BYU 270, Oklahoma 215 and Pittsburgh 231).
“When I first started playing football, I wanted to be a running back,” Prosise said. “But as I got older, people saw me as a receiver. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win. And if they want me to carry it more, I feel like I’m getting better every game and I can do that."
Freshman defensive tackle Jerry Tillery made his first career start, and sophomores Greer Martini and Drue Tranquill got their first starts of the season. Tranquill left the game late in the second quarter with what appeared to be a serious right knee injury.
On offense freshman tight end Alizé Jones got the first start of his career and finished with three receptions for 19 yards.
By the numbers
• Kizer’s interception by D.J. White of Georgia Tech on a pass intended for Corey Robinson with 6:56 to play in the second quarter marked Notre Dame’s first turnover of the year. The Irish went 143:04 into the season before committing their first turnover.
Jones later committed turnover No. 2 on a fumble.
• Irish junior Will Fuller had his third 100-yard receiving game of the season and the seventh of his career. He’s tied for sixth place in that category with Maurice Stovall (2002-05).
The only other time a Notre Dame player opened a season with three-straight 100-yard receiving games was recent College Hall of Famer Thom Gatewood, in 1970.
Four of Fuller’s five TD receptions this season have been for 39 yards or more.
• Kizer’s 242 yards passing with one touchdown Saturday were the most passing yards by a first-time ND starter since Brady Quinn threw for 297 yards against Purdue on Sept. 27, 2003, and the most in a Notre Dame victory since Ron Powlus finished with 291 yards in a 42-15 win over Northwestern on Sept. 3, 1994, that prompted former ESPN analyst Beano Cook to predict Powlus would win multiple Heisman Trophies in his career.