Noie: Notre Dame RB Josh Adams delivers another Heisman-worthy effort in win

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Situated on the left side of the post-game podium in the Notre Dame Stadium interview room, a navy blue and white mesh baseball cap sat just waiting to be noticed Saturday evening.

Couldn't miss it.

We'll get to the meaning of the lid later, but the guy it centers around was somewhere across the tunnel in the home locker room savoring another big effort and big win for No. 9 Notre Dame. Junior running back Josh Adams ran for 202 yards on a career-high 27 carries to shred the nation’s sixth-ranked rush defense as Notre Dame (7-1) shrugged off early adversity before doing what it has done so often this college football season.

Dominating opponents. Demoralizing them. Defeating them, usually with Adams running untouched through inviting lanes that lead right to the Promised Land — the end zone.

It all happened again in a 35-14 victory over No. 14 North Carolina State (6-2).

Forty minutes after this one ended, after he had found the two offensive linemen that operate as one giant wrecking ball on the left side — guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey — to lock arms with and sing the alma mater, Adams climbed the dais for the podium still in his football pants and cleats, his left ankle still wrapped tightly in blue tape.

He looked ready for one more carry. One more big-gainer. One more play to say what everyone is coming to understand.

That No. 33 is good. Heisman Trophy good.

When Adams runs as he has, a solo media session beckons. No more standing in the corner of the interview room trying to blend in while McGlinchey or quarterback Brandon Wimbush hold court. The spotlight's on him. But know this about Adams — through all the yards, the touchdowns, the attention, he’s never made it about himself. He won’t start now.

This offense overwhelming opponents because of him? Not going there.

“I wouldn’t say it’s solely on me,” Adams said. “I would say it’s built around the offensive line and the confidence that we have in them as a team."

As far as the Heisman, that campaign kicked into high gear late in the week and Adams entered Saturday’s game with that to live up to. Then he did. Again. And then some. He made the Wolfpack look silly. Lost-in-the-wilderness silly.

The whispers of Adams for Heisman started earlier this month. It now sounds like the rumbling of an approaching express train. Next stop, South Bend. Then South Florida.

On Thursday, the promotion of Adams for Heisman — something an Irish player hasn’t won since Tim Brown in 1987 — hit another gear with the creation of its own Twitter account, website and hats like the one in the post-game, all promoting #33Trucking. Director of Football Media Relations Michael Bertsch pulled the hat from the podium before Adams entered the room, then offered it to athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

Who knows, maybe Swarbrick can wear it around his nearby home while doing yard work. Would be a good look.

When Adams ran away on his 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter, stadium public address announcer Mike Collins proclaimed Adams to be “trucking down Main Street for the touchdown!”

Main Street, Sample Street, heck, even smart streets, roundabouts and all. It doesn’t matter. Adams is running away. From everyone.

Eight games in, he's rushed for 1,169 yards on 132 carries (8.8 average) and nine scores.

The more the kid runs, the less he says about his work. He’s not going there. Not now. Not next week. Maybe sometime in December when he’s sitting in a New York City ballroom. But even then that’s not likely. He’s just not that kind of kid. He’ll answer questions without really answering questions.

Privately, he has to believe he’s the best back in the country. He’s played that way.

“He’s a unique player,” said Irish coach Brian Kelly. "He's a great back."

Adams has ripped off 11 runs of at least 35 yards. He has eight of at least 59 yards. Seven of at least 60 yards. Four that have gone at least 70. It’s reached a point where it’s not an official Notre Dame game until the NBC cameras get Adams motoring downfield, the back judge the only one in the shot, on the way into the end zone. Usually at that point, there's nothing left to see, nothing left to play for except another lopsided Irish win.

“When that hole opens, it’s usually a big one,” Adams said. “Just gotta go hit it.”

And finish it, then point to the sky giving glory to God before offering up a 2 and then a 1 and finally a 5 – the area code of his hometown of Warrington, Pa., before finding someone in the same color jersey to celebrate.

Heisman candidate? Front-runner? Dark horse? Who cares? He’s on the short list. And he should stay there over the season’s final four weeks. Just be patient, Kelly cautioned, and don’t hand the award to anyone who might have played well in September or early October. November’s closing quickly. There’s a lot left for the Adams and the Irish to play for. Heisman. Playoff spot. Dare we take the next step?

Not yet.

“If you wait ‘til the end of the year, a lot of questions will get answered,” Kelly said. “He continues to play against top competition and continues to excel on a very good football team."

Adams doesn’t plan to go it alone. Doesn’t want to hear anything about that. The Heisman is a team award, and it’s going to be chased by Adams and his guys. His linemen. His quarterback. Even his defense.

The #33Trucking page on the Notre Dame web site lists every offensive lineman, the tight ends, the defense, even punter Tyler Newsome as the leaders of #33Trucking.

If Adams is going to do this they’re all going to do it together.

Mere minutes before Saturday’s game started under slate-gray skies, really cold temperatures and the threat of snow showers, it was announced in the ninth-floor press box that Penn State’s Saquon Barkley had returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Ohio State.

Some 250 miles away on the banks of the Olentangy, it was as if Barkley was saying to Adams, your turn.

Adams then took off for a 21-yard run on his first carry. Not much later, he ran for 35 more yards to become the quickest back in school history – quicker than a Brooks and a Denson and a Ferguson and a Becton and anybody else – to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He did it on his 110th carry.

Hear him knocking, Saquon?

Adams is here. In chilly South Bend. He’s rolling. So are the Irish. Penn State is picking up the pieces of a loss to Ohio State. Adams and the Irish may just be getting everything in gear. They’re going places.

Plenty of open road awaits.

Want more great Notre Dame coverage? Follow the link to subscribe to ND Insider Premium.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) breaks away from NC State defenders during the Notre Dame-NC State NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) exits the field following the 35-14 win over NC State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) smiles during the Alma Mater after the North Carolina State at Notre Dame NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA
Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) looks behind him as he runs for a touchdown during the North Carolina State at Notre Dame NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA
Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) gets loose for a touchdown during the North Carolina State at Notre Dame NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA
The Notre Dame offensive line creates a hole for running back Josh Adams (33) to break away on a 77-yard touchdown run during the Notre Dame-NC State NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Notre Dame’s Josh Adams (33) breaks away on a 77-yard touchdown run during the Notre Dame-NC State NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN