Notre Dame finally notched a win Saturday against the California Golden Bears — in no small part due to the running back corps. After struggling to get the run game going in the first two games of the season, the Irish notched 147 rushing yards split between three players. One of them was sophomore running back Audric Estime, who led the rushing category with 76 yards (51.7%).
“It was really rewarding just busting our tails off during the week, having a tough week,” he said. “We got the win, so it's definitely a satisfying feeling, but there's a lot more work to be done.”
Thanks to the offensive line — which posted a stellar day compared to their earlier performances — the running backs were able to find the lanes through the defense that they had struggled to execute previously. Estime noted that the position group’s goal coming into the game was to “run the ball, be dominant.” For Estime, this came to fruition most notably in a series of rushes that got him and his team a touchdown.
In this scoring drive, Estime totaled 30 yards, nearly 40% of his total yardage on the day. Quarterback Drew Pyne noted that at the end of the drive, the offense ran the same play four times in a row to get Estime in the end zone. When asked about his thoughts on this fact, Estime said the team should simply keep doing what works.
“Just don't stop, you keep on doing things that work,” he said. “And that play was working, and we just had the momentum. And the O-line were just pushing guys off the line and were just opening up holes for me, and we just executed and finished that drive.”
Pyne said that if he gives the ball to Estime, the running back falls forward. Estime said that his mentality is to just keep going, no matter how many yards he receives. His goal was just to move forward in whatever way he could.
“I just pride myself that no matter what, I’m always gonna go forward, get as many yards as I can, because that's what keeps a drive going, keeps the chain moving,” he said. “No matter what, I got to try to get positive yards, no matter what.”
Head coach Marcus Freeman said that sophomore running back Logan Diggs had missed practice on Thursday due to an illness, which put more emphasis on Estime and junior running back Chris Tyree. Estime said this did not change his mindset heading into Saturday.
“I just had to do my job,” he said. “We just knew that we had a bigger load with Logan not playing. That’s something that we're ready for, and we're prepared for, and we just handled it.”
Estime said that the running backs had a goal to have a “breakout game” for all of them and get more than 100 combined yards; he and Tyree were able to do so, which he described as a “surreal moment.”
“Just being able to do that, fulfill a goal that you set with your brothers, is a surreal moment,” he said. “And there's a lot more for this running back group with me, Chris and Logan.”