Notre Dame RB Josh Adams celebrates 20th birthday with touchdown run

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Josh Adams celebrated his 20th birthday with his family.

With six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Saturday and his team trailing the suddenly torrential Miami Hurricanes 27-20, Notre Dame’s 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore running back took a handoff, shredded an arm tackle and scampered into the second level. Adams cut right around a Nic Weishar block at the 35-yard line and coasted — his sculpted arms pumping, his long legs swallowing turf in massive strides. Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer trailed him like a shadow, lifting his arms above his head as the birthday boy passed the pylon.

All the while, the voice inside Adams’ helmet urged him forward with every step.

“Just score,” Adams said of his thought process during the 41-yard touchdown run. “Just try to kick it into another gear, and don’t get caught. Just make sure you finish strong. The team worked too hard for you not to finish.”

Josh Adams ties it up! #MIAMIvsNDhttps://t.co/9yYMaWhTM8

— Notre Dame on NBC (@NDonNBC) October 29, 2016

On Saturday night, Adams finished, and so did Notre Dame (3-5). After surrendering 27 consecutive points, the Irish scored the final 10 to pull out a narrow 30-27 victory. After losing five games this season by an average of 5.6 points, they finally got one.

“That’s the worst part about losing — the fact that you know you’ve put in time and effort and energy and blood, sweat and tears,” senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “Not coming out on the winning side of things, it’s tough to swallow. But we finally broke down that wall today.

“That’s why it feels so good, because we know we’ve been working. Work has never been the problem with this group. It’s just execution when the time comes.”

On Adams’ touchdown run specifically, the Irish executed to a T.

“Our inside zone play allows us a little bit of misdirection and the opportunity not to block everybody, because you've got to defend the quarterback as well,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly explained. “And in that situation, if you're not perfect with your defensive fit, it gives you an opportunity to fit the ball up inside, and we were able to do that on that particular run play.”

The result was a rare fourth quarter answer for a team facing a million questions. It was the highlight in a 12-carry, 94-yard performance for Adams, who averaged 7.8 yards per rush. It was the most emphatic chunk of Notre Dame’s 148 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry).

It was also an exclamation point for a guy who admittedly needed the bye week more than most.

“I was just trying to feel healthy again,” said Adams, who was hampered with a hamstring injury in training camp and has played through nagging injuries throughout the season. “Week by week, it’s a long season, so it can really take a toll on you. That (bye week) definitely gave me a chance to get right and get focused mentally.”

Standing in Notre Dame Stadium’s south end zone, Adams looked plenty healthy. Kizer caught up and lifted his running back off the ground, and Adams pounded his chest as his teammates steadily engulfed him.

“It definitely felt good to punch one in on the ground at the end of the game there,” McGlinchey said. “Josh hit the hole hard, and we executed up front. That’s what we’re expected to do, and that’s what we expect of ourselves.”

So many times this season, Notre Dame’s offense has fallen short of expectations. But not on Saturday.

Saturday was special for Adams, for more reasons than one.

“It’s definitely up there,” Adams said with a laugh, when asked where this game ranks on his list of memorable birthdays. “It’s great. I’ve got my family here to celebrate my birthday with me.”

On Saturday, Adams had 100 family members on the sideline, and 80,000 more in the stands.

Josh turns 20 this Saturday!!! It would be a WONDERFUL birthday gift if we can BEAT MIAMI!!

Happy Birthday Josh!!! pic.twitter.com/YfVeflP8n7

— Apryll Adams (@deniseadamsa) October 27, 2016

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Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) runs the ball for a touchdown as DeShone Kizer (14) celebrates behind him during the Miami at Notre Dame NCAA college football game Saturday Oct. 29, 2016, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA