by Mike Coffey
authored by RocketShark
CHICAGO – Eighty-five years since making their first appearance in Soldier Field the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame returned to whip one-time heated rival Miami. The 41-3 victory marked the third consecutive win over the Hurricanes and improves ND’s record to 5-0. The Irish also remain undefeated in the Shamrock Series and in Soldier Field.
Miami won the toss and elected to receive. The offense tried to employ a bold aerial attack when Notre Dame’s defensive backs were caught behind open receivers. But two critical dropped passes that would’ve meant certain touchdowns stalled drives, forcing the Canes to settle for one field goal which accounted for their only points this night.
Tommy Rees made his first start of the season as Everett Golson was benched for disciplinary reasons for the first series. It was a brief rest as the Irish went 3-and-out, but were bailed out by Miami’s special teams with a costly roughing the kicker penalty. Golson was sent in and the Irish moved down field to a touchdown.
Miami managed to answer with a field goal and from then on it was all Notre Dame. In nine offensive series only two didn’t conclude with points (one punt and a missed field goal attempt.
As for Canes, it just wasn’t their night as they were outclassed by the Fighting Irish.
Some particularly notable stats for the game include 34 first downs for the Irish compared to 13 for Miami, 376 yards rushing on 51 attempts with a 7.4 average for the Gold and Blue, 587 total yards for ND compared to 285 for the Canes, and no turnovers from fumbles or interceptions from either team. Miami’s 9 penalties for 76 yards compared to 4 for 25 yards for ND was also a significant factor in the outcome.
Notre Dame wore specially-designed uniforms for the game, including blue jerseys with gold numerals for the first time since the early 1940s when Frank Leahy became head coach. The helmets were a tremendous source of controversy as it would appear Troy Lee Designs was granted a free hand in creating something unique if not disturbing by traditional/simple ND uniform standards.
The game atmosphere at Soldier Field was much like Notre Dame Stadium, with the notable exception of a concentrated student section which is always counted on to provide the most demonstrable support to the team. The fireworks when the Irish took the field and after the game ended were fun.
The video boards had less animation than was present at Yankee Stadium two years ago. The displays were primarily used for presenting the game from various angles and for shots of the crowd during commercial breaks. There were also two Notre Dame-themed commercials for Sprint.
And now a look at the questions Mr. Vannie posed as being keys to the game and how the Irish fared:
Can the Irish limit the number of explosive plays by Miami? Essentially yes as the early going Miami failed to capitalize on open receivers, who had beaten coverage but failed to hang onto the ball. The remainder of the game saw the Irish pass rush intensify and Miami had no answer.
Will either Notre Dame quarterback be able to throw the ball accurately and with authority? Golson was o 17-of-22 for 186 yards in the air and much of his passing looked fairly sharp, particularly with receptions made by Tyler Eifert, Davaris Daniels and Cam McDaniel.
Which team will run the ball more effectively? Notre Dame by a landslide. The effective ground attack was reminiscent of this team’s victory over Navy (but now enhanced with the presence of Cierre Wood). Wood gained 118 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns. George Atkinson III rushed for 123 yards on 10 carries and scored a touchdown. Theo Riddick had five carries for 21 yards and scored the first Irish touchdown.
Can the Irish pass rush generate enough pressure to reduce Morris’ accuracy and effectiveness? Miami’s offensive line provide Morris with more time than ND’s previous opponents have enjoyed in the early going. But as the game progressed Morris was forced out of the pocket and his accuracy suffered.
Which team will be more disciplined and mistake-free? Again, the Fighting Irish played nearly mistake-free football, with the only penalties on a couple false starts and a delay of game during garbage time. Miami, on the other hand, repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with a several personal fouls that contributed to successful Irish drives.
Will the kicking game be a significant factor in the final result? Technically, no. Early in the game Kyle Brindza’s kickoffs looked shallow, including one that almost looked like an onside attempt. But as the game progressed his kickoffs were returning to touchback form. ND and UM traded field goals and missed fields goals.
Will Notre Dame be able to generate long plays of its own? Indeed yes with the most exciting being Cierre Wood’s 37-yard run (he scored on the next play from two yards out) along with Atkinson’s nifty 55-yard scoring run to put the game away, with the fourth quarter still to be played. Cam McDaniel closed out the game with a sustained scoring drive.
And so now the 9th ranked Fighting Irish are 5-0 and it feels great. Other tests lie ahead, but for now the satisfying win against the Miami Hurricanes is worth savoring.