Cierre Wood's welcome-back party got off to a slow start last weekend. The senior running back returned from a two-game suspension and received just three first-half carries, rushing for 14 yards.
But when tensions were high and Notre Dame was pinned deep in its own territory in the fourth quarter, Wood was the man the Irish relied upon to ice the victory.
Like suspended quarterback Tommy Rees a week before, Wood was the Irish's closer, carrying the ball five times for 45 yards on a game-sealing drive that started at the Irish 4-yard line and ended with a Kyle Brindza field goal to go up 17-3.
Wood finished with a team-best 56 rushing yards on just 10 carries, and he likely earned himself a heavier workload this weekend against Michigan. Which is a good thing, considering the success Wood — and Notre Dame's running game in general — had last season in the Big House.
Wood rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, leading an Irish ground attack that went for 198 yards on the Wolverines. The battle in the trenches is one the Irish should have an advantage in again this season, and they would be wise to rely on their three-headed running attack of Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III early and often.
Wood, the most accomplished of the trio, figures to benefit most, as the Notre Dame offensive line will look to open holes against a defensive front that simply does not stack up with the challenges that Michigan State and Purdue presented the past two weeks.
It will take the pressure off Everett Golson, and it will likely result in more carries and more yards for Wood, who rushed for more than 1,000 a year ago.