Notre Dame's search for a running game continues after the No. 22 Irish gained only 82 rushing yards in Saturday's 17-13 win over Michigan State (3-1).
Freshman Tarean Folston got his first chance to perform in meaningful minutes Saturday, and the 5-foot-9, 207-pounder showed some good things as he gained 12 yards on four carries for Notre Dame (3-1).
"He's a guy that is always going forward," coach Brian Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. "I guess more than anything else, you can see that he's got a nice forward lean. A very talented kid out of the backfield as well. I think just all the things that we are looking for at the back. We just wanted to get him in the game and give him an opportunity. I think his really only opportunity was when the game was in hand against Temple. We wanted to see him when the game was on the line, and we thought he did very well."
Notre Dame used four running backs against Michigan State with Cam McDaniel getting the bulk of the work with 16 carries for 44 yards and a 7-yard touchdown. George Atkinson III ran for 23 yards on six carries, and Amir Carlisle had nine yards on three carries.
Freshman Greg Bryant did not have a carry against the Spartans, who did not offer many chances to run as they consistently stacked the box with seven, eight and nine defenders and allowed their cornerbacks to play man-to-man through out the game.
"I think we are still trying to find ourselves in the running game," Kelly said. "In the running back position, we are rotating four guys right now."
Forcing Tommy Rees to throw has been a common theme the Irish have seen from defenses in the first third of the season, and Kelly said future opponents could do what Michigan State did Saturday based on their personnel.
"If they feel like they matchup well, yeah, we'll probably see it again," Kelly said. "If they think that they can prevent us from throwing the ball over their heads then we may see it again. If they don't, they will play more zone and give us an opportunity to run the football. There were seven, eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage (Saturday against Michigan State). Unfortunately, we weren't able to complete some of the balls that we felt we had available to us. But we were able to manage the game the way we needed to to come out with a win."
Notes: Kelly said defensive end Sheldon Day, who missed the game against the Spartans with a sprained ankle, should be ready to play Saturday against No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0). … Freshman quarterback Malik Zaire, who missed the first three games with mononucleosis, will be part of the team's game plan moving forward, Kelly said.