SOUTH BEND – Brandon Wimbush insists he wanted to feel pain, needed to feel pain.
Until Saturday, Notre Dame's new starting quarterback had gone 22 months without being hit by anyone but a teammate. In a 49-16 win over Temple to open the 2017 season, Wimbush absorbed the Owls' contact and expected to experience aches Sunday, but the 6-foot-2, 228-pound passer wouldn't have it any other way.
“Took a couple shots,” Wimbush said Saturday. “I wanted to get hit. That felt really good for me. I'll be sore, but right now I'm great. I'm in a great place right now, physically, mentally, emotionally.”
Fans hope he stays that way, so questions will arise about how often Wimbush should put his body in harm's way.
Any quarterback who is a running threat generates discussion about how often he should run the ball and whether he can protect himself when he does.
Subtracting sacks from rushing numbers, Wimbush took off and ran 10 times Saturday. A few of those were on designed carries, but others came from improvisation as Wimbush scrambled to make something happen when his passing lanes were obstructed.
Wimbush gained 113 yards and a touchdown on those 10 plays, confirming the notion he can do serious damage with his legs. He finished with 106 net rushing yards.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly seemed unconcerned with Wimbush adding undue injury risk. Rules protect quarterbacks by allowing them to slide at the end of a rushing attempt so that referees blow a play dead before a defender's hit.
“He did slide one time, and he has slid in practice,” Kelly said. “He's a pretty good baseball player, so he knows how to slide.”
Wimbush struck a harsher tone when assessing his own open-field decisions from his first collegiate start.
“I have to get down a little bit more than I did, but I'll learn,” Wimbush said. “Obviously I learned (Saturday). I've got to be smarter a little bit and, you know, slide when the opportunity presents itself.”
Wimbush joined running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams in going over 100 yards on the ground. The Irish believe that is the first time the school has ever had three 100-yard rushers in a game.
“That's special,” Wimbush said. “That speaks to (blocking) up front and (Notre Dame offensive line coach) Harry (Hiestand). To have three guys hit 100 rushing yards obviously speaks to their dedication up front.”
Irish fans surely love to see Wimbush being a part of that running game. However, they also still have the memory of two years ago when starting quarterback Malik Zaire suffered a season-ending ankle injury at the end of a run.
Kelly said he is confident Wimbush can manage the risk as best he can.
“I think he's a pretty smart guy,” Kelly said. “He's going to know when to get out of bounds, when to slide, when to protect himself. He got hit (square) one time, and I think he'll be smart enough to know when to get down.”
Notes: Kelly said tight end Durham Smythe, who was placed in concussion protocol, showed no symptoms Sunday, “a very encouraging sign.” ... Backup defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway did not play because of a knee strain. Kelly said he expects him to be back for next Saturday's game against Georgia.