Tarean Folston breaks out, keys Irish win over Navy

Tarean Folston breaks out, keys Irish win over Navy
November 2, 2013, 8:15 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With the game on the line, Notre Dame coaches turned to a freshman who entered Saturday with 22 career carries. 

They were rewarded with a win for doing so.

Tarean Folston carried 18 times for 140 yards and scored his first career touchdown -- the game-winner -- in Notre Dame's 38-34 win over Navy on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. With Notre Dame down three and eight minutes and 55 seconds remaining in the game, Folston carried the Irish into the end zone -- literally.

On an 11-play, 76-yard scoring drive, Folston carried the ball eight times and gained 47 yards, the last of which came on a leap into the end zone. 

"He didn't play like a freshman," quarterback Tommy Rees said. "He ran extremely hard and was able to make some people miss and get some tough yards. I'm really happy for the kid.  I think he's got the right attitude to keep moving forward and keep working hard for us. 

"I think he can be a pretty good player for us down the road."

Nine games into the season, Folston and his coaches were confident in his ability to shoulder the load on an extended drive. Improved conditioning was the key there, with the freshman getting to the point over the last three months to where he could have nearly 20 carries in a game.

"I don't know that he would have made that many carries early in the year," coach Brian Kelly said. "He wasn't conditioned well enough to be in there."

Folston agreed. 

"At the beginning of the season, even though I wasn't getting 10 carries a game, I feel like I've come a long way," Folston said. "Working on my conditioning is a major part, not only in me but everyone else. In college football, you have to be in pretty good shape. Coming out with 18 carries today, that really shows how much my conditioning has improved."

There was a flash of this ability last week, with Folston carrying 11 times for 47 yards against Air Force. Most of those carries came late, after the game was sealed. 

If anything, it proved to Irish coaches that he was ready for a bigger, more consistent workload. And he got those 18 carries while George Atkinson (seven carries, 74 yards, 1 TD) and Cam McDaniel (7 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD) had success as well.

As Folston saw it, though, conditioning wasn't everything against Navy. Getting the ball eight times on a crucial drive might've made up for him being in not-so-great shape. 

"I just saw the end zone. That's all I saw," Folston said. "Conditioning probably played a part, but it was the adrenaline."