Notre Dame will likely be without half of its productive running back combination for the rest of the season.
Senior Jonas Gray has what coach Brian Kelly described during his Sunday teleconference as a “significant” knee injury. Kelly said he was still waiting on the MRI results on the running back’s right knee, but he seemed resigned to playing No. 4 Stanford on Saturday without Gray.
“The MRI will probably confirm what we know is to be a significant knee injury,” Kelly said.
Gray, who likely will also not be able to play in a bowl game, has run for 791 yards on 114 carries with 12 touchdowns for Notre Dame (8-3). He scored the Irish’s lone touchdown, a 26-yard run on the first drive, in Saturday’s 16-14 win over Boston College.
Gray scored at least one touchdown in the last eight games, the longest by a Notre Dame running back since 1998.
Gray combined with junior Cierre Wood breathed life into a running game that had been struggling recently. The Irish are averaging 175.9 rushing yards per game, and Woods became the first Notre Dame back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards since 2006.
Wood has 1,001 rushing yards this season.
Freshmen George Atkinson III, who has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, and Cam McDaniel are the next two running backs on the depth chart, but Kelly said he could turn to Theo Riddick to spell Wood against the Cardinal.
Riddick was moved from running back to slot receiver last season. But the junior has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
“I think we’ll look at all of those possibilities,” Kelly said. “We’re into a one-game season, so to speak, when it comes to Stanford. We’ll sit down as a staff and first of all see what Theo is able to do physically and decide whether he can go into a running back position and help us out. We haven’t made that decision but we’ll certainly consider it.”
In other injury news, Kelly said sophomore Austin Collinsworth has a lateral ankle sprain, but he doesn’t expect the special teams player and backup safety to miss this weekend’s game.
“He will be limited in practice this week, but he should be able to be an impact in all of our ST stuff and nickel package,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame is also dealing with a flu bug that is floating around campus. Freshman defensive end Stephon Tuitt missed this weekend’s game because of illness, and Kelly said he wouldn’t know Tuitt’s status for Saturday until Monday.
“Our training staff is in the process of cleaning all the meeting rooms, the weight room. We are talking to players about roommates that have had this bug,” Kelly said. “We’re actually on full alert because we’ve had so many guys affected by it at this point.”
Notre Dame also moved up in The Associated Press and USA Today coaches’ polls Sunday. The Irish jumped two spots in the AP rankings going from No. 24 to a tie for No. 22 with Nebraska, and they are No. 24 in the coaches’ poll after being No. 25 last week.