Notre Dame's George Atkinson III broke out and established himself as the best running back for the AP No. 22 Fighting Irish on Saturday against 14th-ranked Oklahoma in South Bend.
The 6'2", 220-pound junior has a unique blend of power and breakaway speed, which was on full display on his 80-yard touchdown run to begin the second half, which pulled the Irish within, 21-14.
It was the first play from scrimmage in the second half for Notre Dame, whose rushing attack had struggled through the first four games of the 2013 season in ranking 99th in the nation, per NCAA.com.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to prevent the Irish from falling 35-21 at home.
Atkinson finished with 14 carries for 148 yards and ESPN Stats & Info pointed out how Atkinson's 80-yard dash was the vaunted program's longest touchdown run in a decade:
George Atkinson III's 80-yd Rush TD is the longest run by a Notre Dame player in the last 10 seasons.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2013
The Irish ran for 220 yards as a team, while Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees struggled in throwing three interceptions, all of which have led to points for the Oklahoma offense.
This standout performance from Atkinson should give the Irish more confidence in the running game moving forward, though, and alleviate the pressure on Rees to carry the offensive load.
Rees had his second consecutive lackluster outing, but with the discovered success of the running game, the Irish offense should be spearheaded by Atkinson for the remainder of 2013.