Notre Dame RB Deon McIntosh delivers when his number's called

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – One of the last to leave the soggy turf for the mugginess of the visitor’s tunnel that led up to the locker room, Notre Dame sophomore running back Deon McIntosh didn’t get too far toward his destination before it started.

“DE-ON!”

“DE-ON!”

“DE-ON!”

The chant came from his teammates. Some guys on the defense. Others on offense. Special teamers. McIntosh never did break stride, smiling as he handed his helmet to one of the equipment managers before making a left turn into a joyous Irish locker room.

On a rainy night that belonged to sophomore Ian Book, who made a strong and successful first collegiate start, McIntosh made sure to share some of that spotlight.

McIntosh ran for 124 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns, all career highs, as Notre Dame moved to 5-1 with a 33-10 victory over North Carolina at soggy Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Fourth string much of the season, McIntosh entered Saturday with 106 yards on 28 carries in three games.

“He showed today why today he can be counted on as another very good back,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “He was very physical. He ran with vision.”

Especially on the game’s final touchdown when he took it left, eyed a hole to the outside, delivered a mesmerizing jump cut and was gone to the far corner of the end zone. It was the game’s prettiest run.

“Man, I saw that cut to the outside,” McIntosh said “Coach tells me all the time to get up field. I just saw that cut and got up and dove in the end zone.”

For McIntosh, getting more carries and doing something with those carries has been a numbers game. In many different ways. For one, he’s working behind starter Josh Adams, who again made getting to and past 100 yards look ridiculously easy. Adams finished with 118 yards on 13 carries, including one for a 73-yard score, before leaving with dehydration.

Having seen Adams and fellow running back Dexter Williams and even quarterback Brandon Wimbush (when healthy) all run for well over 100 yards in games this season motivated McIntosh even more in practice.

He wanted to get his 100. And more.

On Saturday, he did.

“Just every week, we look at Josh being the leader, we look up to him,” McIntosh said. “When he sets the tone, it just clicks for the younger guys coming behind him.

“I had to stay focused and keep working hard. When my name and number’s called, just make a play.”

Saturday’s showing may allow McIntosh to dial back one of the desires he’s had since he arrived on campus. For as long as he could remember, McIntosh has always played the game wearing a low number – even a single-digit number. He didn’t care much at all for his current No. 38 – he may have even hated it – saying that no good runner (at least present day) did anything while wearing No. 38.

“He’s felt that 38 was not befitting of a running back,” Kelly said. “I said, well, you’re in a problem now. People recognize you as 38 and you’re a really good running back.”

Kelly told McIntosh that there was another running back, long before the kid’s time that was a pretty good running back who wore No. 38. Kelly didn’t mention a name to the media, but he likely was referring to former South Carolina star George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner.

He mentioned the name to McIntosh. It drew a blank.

After Saturday, McIntosh may take a long look at No. 38 and figured, yeah, that might fit him really well after all.

“We may have to keep it 38, man,” McIntosh said. “I was so ready to turn in my number at the beginning of the season.

“Three-eight just didn’t feel like me.”

And now?

“Now that I made a name for myself, I may have to keep it.”

McIntosh earned something more than recognition as No. 38 for his work.

“He deserved the game ball,” Kelly said.

He got it.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

Notre Dame's sophomore Deon McIntosh runs in a touchdown during Saturday's game against North Carolina at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)