Notre Dame running attack dominates from every direction

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The flashes from Notre Dame’s running game were to be expected.

When Josh Adams sprinted through Temple’s defense for a 37-yard touchdown only 33 seconds into the game, Notre Dame fans were hardly surprised.

Six of his 13 career touchdowns have been at least 35 yards long.

But Notre Dame’s rushing attack wasn’t just junior captain Josh Adams and his 161 yards and two touchdowns.

Dexter Williams rushed for 124 yards and one touchdown. Brandon Wimbush moved the ball for 106 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Even Tony Jones Jr. chipped in for 19 yards and a touchdown.

It was complete domination from every direction in a 49-16 win for Notre Dame in its season opener. The Irish rushed for 422 yards, the most since a 2015 victory over UMass.

“Our mission as an offense was to put points on the board,” Adams said. “We did that amazingly. The offensive line made it easy on us. All we have to do is take care of our job.”

That’s why Adams gave the game ball he received from head coach Brian Kelly to the offensive line. Left tackle Mike McGlinchey, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Sam Mustipher, right guard Alex Bars and right tackles Tommy Kraemer and Robert Hainsey, both rotating into their first game for the Irish, set the tone.

“They went out there and dominated,” Adams said. “They really forced their will upon the defense. They did a great job of doing that. They helped us out tremendously, communicating with us, letting us know. All the credit goes to those guys for going out there and dominating and making it easier on us as a running back unit.”

For all the NFL potential lining up on Notre Dame’s left side of the offensive line with McGlinchey and Nelson, the Irish showed balance in running to both sides of the field. Adams started right and cut left on his first touchdown of the game. The last four rushing scores were split on both sides equally.

That didn’t stop Kelly from joking about more rushing yards coming on the right side against Temple.

“I told McGlinchey and Quenton, thank God for the right side,” Kelly said. “Because if you look at how everything was run, it was the right side. They didn't like that, by the way, very much.”

“I love the fact that we — when we needed to run the ball, we could go behind Bars and Kraemer and Hainsey and not have to just rely on Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. You know, when you step back, that's pretty good; that you've got the confidence that you can go on either side of the ball.”

McGlinchey agreed with his coach, but he’ll be begging for some more runs coming his way.

“Obviously he’s correct,” McGlinchey said. “We have a great offensive line. Alex and Tommy and Rob will do a great job over there. But obviously Q and I want the ball behind us as much as humanly possible. We’ll figure out a way to see eye-to-eye on that.”

Temple loaded the box against Notre Dame at times Saturday. That didn’t stop the Irish from continuing to pound it. A dedication to the running game allows more chances for Adams to break his 60-yard touchdown and Williams to run away on a 66-yard gain.

“Having a good run game, you have to have big plays,” Kelly said. “They crowded the line of scrimmage. Look, when you drop your safeties down and decide that you're going to play eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage, if you break through, those are the things that come with it.”

Temple head coach Geoff Collins, a former defensive coordinator, tried to put his players in position to stop the run. By his estimate, the Owls used seven different linebackers throughout the game. None of the combinations were able to consistently slow down the Irish.

“They're really good players,” Collins said of Notre Dame’s running backs. “I think (Adams) will probably go down as one of the great running backs of this school and that's probably saying a lot. The quarterback can run as well.”

Adams had the most opportunities for Notre Dame with 19 carries. The running game was so successful that he couldn’t pinpoint any specific regrets from his performance. Just don’t expect Adams to get complacent.

“We didn’t work that hard in the offseason for game one,” Adams said. “We worked that hard for all the games in our season. This was just a start of us getting better and us improving as a team. What we’re going to continue to do is come back next week and be stronger.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame's Josh Adams (33) celebrates a touchdown with teammates during the Notre Dame-Temple NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN