Vorel: Even without standout RB Josh Adams, Notre Dame offense rolls

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Forget the number on the truck.

All that matters is the destination.

Because, let’s face it, this team — this tough, resilient, physically overwhelming 8-1 Notre Dame offense — is more than its running back. It’s more than a hashtag (#33Trucking) or a slogan (“Long drives, reliably delivered”). It’s more than a Heisman Trophy candidate.

It’s more than Josh Adams.

After Adams was lifted from Saturday’s game as a precaution in the second quarter, No. 5 Notre Dame proved it in a 48-37 victory over Wake Forest (5-4).

“Obviously Josh is as good a running back as there is in the country,” said graduate student left tackle Mike McGlinchey. “We always love having him back there, but it’s ‘next man in.’ That’s always been our philosophy here at Notre Dame.

“No matter who’s on the field, everybody’s got to get their job done.”

That’s not to take anything away from Adams — Notre Dame’s 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior running back — who has shredded overmatched defenses en route to 1,191 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in nine games, sitting out 12 whole quarters. Adams entered the day with seven runs of at least 60 yards this season, more than all but three teams nationally (including his own).

The long-striding, stiff-arming junior is the face of a renaissance that vaulted Notre Dame into the No. 3 spot in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings.

He drives the truck, sure. But a truck is more than its driver.

Saturday’s game belonged to the masses: the Brandon Wimbushes, the Chase Claypools, the Nic Weishars, the Ian Books. It belonged to the back ups and the Next Men In.

It belonged to the Irish offensive line — the affectionately dubbed “Maul Cops” — which just might be the most destructive unit in college football.

“You could put a lot of running backs behind that offensive line and anybody will produce,” said Wimbush, who completed 15 of 30 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown and added 110 rushing yards and two more scores.

“The rest of the backs did a great job of preparing throughout the week, and when they have the opportunity they are able to take advantage of it. Obviously it's a testament to (the guys) up front continuing their dominance and opening up those holes for the guys.”

Saturday belonged to guys like Deon McIntosh, too.

McIntosh — who entered the season as Notre Dame’s fourth-string running back — added to an unexpected haul on Saturday, finishing with nine carries for 63 yards and a touchdown, including a 45-yard jaunt. The 5-foot-11, 193-pound sophomore owns 376 rushing yards and five scores.

“Before we know it, Deon McIntosh is going to have a thousand yards,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said on Saturday night. “He just keeps coming in and doing a nice job for us.”

Without their bell cow back for the majority of Saturday’s game, the Irish rushed for 380 yards, four touchdowns and 8.3 yards per carry. Five different players rushed for at least 42 yards.

It was the fifth consecutive game, in fact, that Notre Dame eclipsed 300 rushing yards.

Plus, get this: the Irish also rolled up 710 total yards, finishing 10 yards shy of a school record set against Navy in 1969.

It may not have been 33 Trucking, but rest assured: the Demon Deacons got trucked, and the Irish offense delivered.

“It could have been a 900-yard day for them if they hit all their deep shots,” marveled Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson after the game.

Added McGlinchey: “We’ve got a good thing going at Notre Dame right now, and we’ve got to make sure we keep it going.”

No matter the name. No matter the number.

With Adams sidelined on Saturday, sophomore running back Tony Jones Jr. rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. In relief of Wimbush, sophomore quarterback Ian Book added 50 passing yards and a touchdown to go with 54 rushing yards.

With junior tight end Alizé Mack missing the game with a concussion, senior Nic Weishar contributed three catches for 17 yards and his second score of the season.

“As soon as we lined up I knew I was going to be open,” said a grinning Weishar, who scored on a play-action pass from the 1-yard-line to close the opening half.

Early in Saturday’s game, referee Jeff Flanagan warned the Notre Dame marching band to stop playing while Wake Forest’s offense operated at the line of scrimmage.

In a way, the Notre Dame offense took a cue from its band.

On Saturday, even without its lead singer, the Irish kept playing — hit after hit after hit.

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mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Tony Jones Jr. (34) celebrates with teammate Deon McIntosh (38) on the sideline after a touchdown during the Notre Dame-Wake Forest NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN