Sept. 6, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Freshman running back Josh Adams didn’t hear the thunderous roar of the University of Notre Dame fans after his first collegiate play for the Fighting Irish football team.
“I couldn’t hear the crowd because my teammates were going crazy,” said Adams, whose first carry for the Irish ended with points on the scoreboard and a celebration in the end zone.
With Notre Dame leading 7-0 and the Irish lining up on a first-and-10 at the Texas 14, Adams took a handoff from Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire and sprinted to the right side.
Adams darted to his left to juke a Longhorns’ defender, and accelerated straight ahead to paydirt, too quick for the attempted grasp of a would-be tackler at the 2.
Late in the third quarter, the 6-foot-1, 212-pound running back from Warrington, Pennsylvania., stung the Longhorns again. Adams sliced right through the Longhorns for a 25-yard TD that pushed the Irish lead to 31-3 with 2:00 left in the third quarter.
Adams finished with 49 yards on five carries, and the Irish pounded Texas, 38-3, Saturday night in their season opener.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said that Adams’ ability to be a quick study helped him step in and step up when Irish running back Tarean Folston left the game with an apparent knee injury.
“(Adams) was able to pick up all the protections early on,” Kelly said. “(He) really walked in, smart kid, and any time when a freshman can come in and pick up all the protections early on, it’s been my feeling that he’s ready to play, provided he’s got the skill and also what kind of skill he has.
“We felt like he was a kid that was under the radar last year,” Kelly continued about Adams. “He had a knee injury that kind of took him off the radar a little bit. But he’s just scratching the surface. He’s got elite speed. He’s got great size, got good ball skills and obviously he’s a kid that we believe in.” Irish offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley said that Adams’ maturity was a key to his college-debut success.
“It takes a lot of maturity and a lot of mental toughness to be in a situation like that and perform well,” Stanley said of Adams striking immediately on entering the game for Folston. “College football is very different from high school football. It’s a very different environment. To go in there and perform like he did is a testament to his maturity. He knew what he had to do and went out there and executed the game plan, and it worked out.
“We felt for Tarean. You never want a player on our team to get hurt. Josh came in and didn’t blink and eye, and performed like he should. That’s how everyone expected him to perform or else he wouldn’t be in that position, and we wouldn’t put him in that position. Josh is definitely a player who will grow and be a great running back. A lot of these freshmen are going to provide weaponry for us.”
Adams strong-armed any emotions or jitters about making his college debut in a meeting of storied college football programs in front of 80,795 fans and the bright lights of a Saturday night showcase.
“The offensive line made it easy on my job,” the explosive Adams said. “They were out there working. They made me calm. I was just trying to go out there and do my part. We had a guy go down (Tarean Folston). I was playing for him, and I was playing for the team.
“I tried to be calm. I had my team behind me. I was just making sure that I was OK. We all took care of each other out there. That made it calm. That’s what we practice for, to be ready for the game. Whoever steps in, you have to be ready for your opportunity.
“If Tarean was in the game, we would have gone off. When a man goes down, it puts fuel in your fire. Everybody plays harder.”
Running behind an offense line that dominated Texas, and getting critical blocks on the outside by Irish wide receivers, Adams seized the moment to display his skills in his five carries. He turned the lead-bash play called for his first touchdown into a dazzling debut. But in the Irish locker room after putting the Longhorns in his rearview mirror on the field, Adams was putting his performance in the past.
“We’re looking to our next game,” Adams said. “We just have to keep working. It’s a great win for the team, and I know we’ll definitely get after it in practice next week. We’ll work even harder.” Adams said that running up against the Irish defense in practice gave him a blunt-force idea of what college football was like, and a taste for the speed of the game. He also said that running backs Folston and C.J. Prosise mentored him in the pre-season.
“Tarean and C.J. have been here for a while,” Adams said. “They know how the game is. They just told me to play how I know how to play. They told me to stay calm, high and tight, keep the ball tight and just go out there and play. They kept saying, do your job, and everything will take care of itself. It’s helped looking up to those guys and seeing how they played and how they handle things. It definitely motivated me to play in the same way.
“And, of course, coach (Autry) Denson does a great job of getting you prepared. That running back room is great. We’re all working hard for the same goal, and cheering for each other.”
By Curt Rallo/special correspondent