NOTRE DAME — It should have been a day of celebration for tailback Jonas Gray.
Instead, his journey at Notre Dame is likely over, snuffed out by an ugly, surprise-punch ending.
He kicked off his Senior Day performance against Boston College with a blazing 26-yard dash into the end zone, securing the only Notre Dame (8-3) touchdown of the game.
His day ended in tragedy when he hobbled off the field early in the third quarter. He sat with an ice pack on his right knee on the sidelines. Teammates approached him with hugs and handshakes.
When television cameras panned to him, he seemed to be fighting tears.
NBC reported that Gray had torn his ACL, but Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was less liberal with information at the post-game press conference.
“Knee injury,” Kelly said. “We’ve got him immobilized right now. He’ll get an MRI (today) and we’ll know more Monday.”
Gray had been one of the hottest stories of the program this year, rising from the ashes of doubt and obscurity and entering the ranks of one of the nation’s elite running backs.
Safety Harrison Smith said Gray addressed the team in the locker room after the game and told his teammates to stay strong.
“He’s the guy that’s always going to keep forward, always looking out for everybody no matter what,” Smith said “When something bad happens to him, he’ll take that and try to make positive out of it.”
Receiver Michael Floyd called Gray’s injury “heartbreaking.”
“It’s hard to see that happen to a senior on senior night and also see one of your best friends go down,” he said. “He stayed strong, stayed positive, so we’re all staying positive, too.”
SENIORS SENT OFF WITH A WIN
Some fans might be more frustrated than pleased with a 16-14 victory at home against a 3-8 team, but Smith said it’s the nature of college football.
“You’re not going to win every game by a large margin,” he said. “No matter what team you are in the country, there are going to be teams you have to grind down to win.”
Smith said the win shows the Notre Dame’s evolving maturity.
“Whenever Notre Dame and Boston College get together, it is always going to be a battle no matter what,” Smith said. “That’s what it was today. It showed the determination we had, no matter what the score was or what type of game it is.”
Floyd, who finished the day with 10 receptions for 92 yards, said winning his final home game felt great, but the emotions hadn’t quite sunk in yet.
“I don’t feel very emotional right now,” he said. “But I guarantee once you leave this university, it’s all going to hit you.”
Saturday’s game featured two of the nation’s top linebackers, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Boston College’s Luke Keuchly.
Te’o finished the day with 11 tackles and three quarterback hurries, while Keuchly finished with 14 tackles, breaking the ACC record for career tackles.
“(Kuechly) went sideline to sideline and Manti played great,” Kelly said. It was just good, college throwback, gritty, tough, last position stop. It was good stuff.”