It’s Day 3 of the Notre Dame-themed holiday song. Here’s who’s next in line:
…Three reliable running backs.
Cierre Wood came into this year Notre Dame’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006, but tailback-turned-receiver-turned-hybrid-of-both Theo Riddick stole the spotlight the last few weeks of the regular season.
Both were counted on to alleviate pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson early in the season. While Golson found his sea legs and Wood suspended for the first two games, Riddick broke out a 107-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Navy in the season opener.
The backs tapered off against Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State before Wood, Riddick and George Atkinson III combined for 376 rushing yards against Miami in Week 5. Add in Golson’s short bursts to the mix, and the Notre Dame running game has developed into the most crucial part of the offense this season.
Atkinson didn’t get as many touches as Wood or Riddick, but the speedy sophomore averaged 7.1 yards on 51 carries this year.
Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of each back:
In many ways, Riddick’s senior season is mirroring his predecessor Jonas Gray’s. Gray had also been relatively quiet in terms of production until his senior season and ended up nearly matching Wood’s 1,000-yard year. Riddick has surpassed Gray in productivity, helping move Notre Dame from the No. 51 rushing offense in the nation (2011) to No. 27.
By the end of the year, the trio have combined for 14 of Notre Dame’s 31 touchdowns, 202.5 yards per game (with a chunk of credit going to the offensive line) and eight 100-plus yard games between them.
On a less tangible scale, the trio have helped Notre Dame win the time of possession battle in tight wins over Michigan, Pitt, BYU and Stanford and help pace the fourth quarter when the game was still close against Oklahoma and USC. Notre Dame averaged five minutes more ball time than its opponents each game.
So while Wood learned to run north and south…
…Riddick excelled between the tackles.
And in the spirit of Christmas, here’s all three beating up on Miami: