Nov. 1, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Opportunity knocks at the strangest times.
Julius Jones is no stranger to that theory. The freshman appears to get his opportunity when other members of the football team fall prey to bad luck.
Just when things appeared in question for the Irish running game, he steps up. With the loss of Tony Driver, head coach Bob Davie knew it was the opportunity for another player to step forward.
That is exactly what Jones did.
“I came out today and played very well,” Jones said. “Our line blocked well and our fullbacks blocked well, also. I got in and got a couple of carries. I finally had a good game where I could show everybody what I could do.”
In Saturday’s game, true-freshman Julius Jones got the nod and earned Hero of the Week honors. Jones had seen some playing time in other games but not to the extent, which he saw against the Midshipmen.
“Julius is special – he reminds me of Autry Denson. His ability to read the holes is amazing,” Irish center John Merandi said.
On 19 carries, the freshman amassed 146 yards, averaging a little over seven yards per carry. The freshman helped the Irish beat the Midshipmen, 28-24, keeping alive college football’s longest winning streak at 36.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” the modest Jones said about his performance. “I wish my parents had been there to see it.”
Instead his parents were in Virginia to watch Florida State struggle early against Virginia. Jones’ brother Thomas is the starting running back for the Cavaliers.
The Cavalier running back surpassed Tiki Barber on the Virginia all-time rushing list. Jones’ 71-yard run in Saturday’s game moved him past Barber to 3,473 yards thus far. The 71-yard run marked the longest run Florida State has seen all season.
Julius set a record of his own on Saturday. He ran for his first 100-yard game of his career. His 146 yards marked since former tailback Autry Denson registered 189 yards against the Bears of Baylor back in October of last year.
“I am just glad to be in there,” Jones said. “It just feels good to get in there and contribute. I am very glad that we won. Navy had a very good team. We had to come out in the second half and play with heart and we did. It was a remarkable game.”
His longest of the day and his career came in the third quarter. The tailback jumped outside and scampered 37 yards before Navy’s Jamie Doffermyre pulled him down.
“When he gets out around the edges, he is tough to stop,” Navy head coach Charlie Weatherbie said. “He played a whale of a game.”
Davie remained tight lipped about the tailback situation. The running game appears to be a popular question for this season especially with the loss of Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher, Autry Denson. The question in every Irish fan’s head is who will get the start at the tailback position.
“I don’t want to make strong statements but he sparks us and he’ll give you a burst,” Davie said about whether Jones will be the new starter. “He’s an overall weapon. The job is definitely up in the air because when Julius Jones gets his hands on the football, he’s a weapon.”
One thing is for sure, it become hard to ignore the numbers. Jones rushed for 146 yards on 19 carries. On the other hand, the current starter Tony Fisher gained only 30 yards on 10 attempts.