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  • Irish Host Redhawks in Martin’s Return

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame returns home after a successful two week road trip and will battle Miami of Ohio on Saturday evening. The Redhawks last visited South Bend in 1909, when the Fighting Irish won by 46-0 (and tickets were a lot cheaper). This week’s game is only the second meeting between these schools. Former Notre Dame assistant (2010-11) and offensive coordinator (2012-2013) Chuck Martin leads the Redhawks, who are 2-2 on the season. The game will be televised on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN, DirecTV channel 220) beginning at 5:00 PM Eastern time.

    Chuck Martin Martin took over Miami’s proud program in December 2013 with a mandate to rebuild after the team had just endured an 0-12 season. The Redhawks went 2-10 and 3-9 in Martin’s first two campaigns, but rose to 6-6 last year after an 0-6 start. The nascent turnaround coincides with the emergence of Gus Ragland at the quarterback position. Ragland suffered an ACL injury in the spring of 2016, but returned to the lineup last October to lead Miami to six straight wins.

    The Redhawks should be 3-1 in 2017, but a series of late game calamities against Cincinnati two weeks ago dealt them a heartbreaking defeat. Martin took responsibility for a miscommunication with the officials resulting in a costly penalty and ultimately the winning score for the Bearcats. It should be noted that Martin has only 12 seniors among the 124 scholarship players and walk-ons at his disposal.

    Meanwhile, Notre Dame is riding high after swamping Boston College and Michigan State, and should be able to use this matchup as a means to fine tune the offense and get the reserves in for some meaningful action. Running back Josh Adams has a sore ankle and may have a limited workload, more as a precaution than anything else. Otherwise, the Irish are in good shape. For Miami, center Danny Godlevske is lost for the season while safety Tony Reid has to sit out the first half following an ejection for targeting last week.

    Speaking of targeting, Coach Brian Kelly went to bat for quarterback Brandon Wimbush in his press conference following the MSU game. Wimbush was the victim of a blatant spear by Spartan linebacker Chris Frey, but no foul was called by the ACC officials on the field or the Big-10 crew in the replay booth. Kelly correctly took them to task, calling the hit “egregious” and the lack of a call “extremely frustrating.” No word yet as to whether either crew was disciplined.


    Ara at Miami Irish fans breathed a sigh of relief last week after Wimbush turned in an efficient, error-free passing performance. Although he won’t need to air it out this week, continued improvement in the timing and accuracy between Wimbush and his receivers would be most welcome. The Redhawk defense has been solid against non-Power Five competition, and its most statistically significant accomplishment is the six interceptions recorded to date by six different players.

    Miami’s leaders in a veteran secondary are cornerback Heath Harding and Reid at safety. Matt Merimee, who filled in admirably after Reid’s premature departure last week, will start in that spot. The front four is on the young side but stout in the middle. Senior tackle Ikeem Allen is the best of the group while 5’11” 335-pound nose tackle Nate Trawick may be wider than he is tall. The Redhawks defend the run quite well, allowing only 3.5 yards per carry, however they have recorded just three sacks.

    Three quality linebackers complete a defense that has no glaring weaknesses. Sam Connolly filled in for the injured Junior McMullen in the middle last week and will start again on Saturday. He is flanked by the team’s leading tacklers, Brad Koenig and De’Andre Montgomery. The threat of a sack or tackle for loss is likely to come from this pair.

    The Redhawks are particularly proud of their red zone defense, which ranks fifth nationally. Something has to give as the Irish have dominated opponents in this area with 17 touchdowns and two field goals in their 19 trips. Notre Dame’s objective will be to establish the run and let Miami know they are no longer playing a MAC team. This may take a series or two, but then again maybe it won’t.


    Redhawks Ragland has lifted the Redhawk offense from the depths, although he has completed only 52% of his passes this year. He can run the ball effectively when necessary, but he’s not going to beat you with his legs. Wide receiver James Gardner, a 6’4” junior, is the top threat, while tight ends Ryan Smith and Nate Becker are quality targets. The rushing duties are split almost equally between Alonzo Smith and the diminutive Kenny Young, who is very elusive and the better pass receiver.

    The running game has accounted for 132 yards per game and 3.2 per attempt, so Martin’s influence hasn’t paid dividends yet. Miami’s offensive line lacks a senior starter. Right guard Jarrett LaRubbio may be the best player in the unit, but it’s still a work in progress. The Redhawks have surrendered eleven sacks to date. A Notre Dame player to keep an eye on in addition to top pass rusher Daelin Hayes is sophomore Julian Okwara, who has showed considerable promise early in his career.


    Notre Dame’s kicker Justin Yoon has found his groove now and should be even more comfortable at home. Punt and kick coverage has been consistently good, while the area that needs work is the return game. The lanes have not materialized for C.J. Sanders and Chris Finke, which makes one wonder how much practice time is allocated to these elements.

    Miami’s own return specialist, Maurice Thomas, has been lost for the season. The 5’7” 175 pound Young will now bring back kickoffs and wide receiver Jared Murphy will field punts. Place kicker Sam Sloman has hit five of six field goals with a long of 42 yards. Punter Kyle Kramer has averaged just under 43 yards and opponents have zero return yards to date.


    Sparty There really isn’t much suspense here, as the Redhawks will earn a nice payday and hope their defense can keep the score respectable. The reason to tune in is to see if Notre Dame will continue to progress or take a step backward with unforced errors and poor execution. The team has been fun to watch so far this season, and the positive energy they’ve displayed is both refreshing and genuine.

    Here are a few questions that will shed light on the outcome:

    Can the Irish pass rushers make life miserable for Ragland?

    How long will it take Notre Dame to get its running game up to full speed?

    Can Wimbush back up his performance against MSU with another solid outing?

    Will the Redhawks be able to hold off the Irish in the red zone?

    Can Notre Dame generate some magic on special teams?

    How much red will we see in the stadium this time?

    Will Miami come to South Bend every time the Cubs win the World Series?

    Think about it.


    The Irish should be able to name the score, but I don’t believe Kelly will run it up against Martin.


    19 Responses to “Irish Host Redhawks in Martin’s Return”

    1. JVan,

      Like the Irish, I’m 3-1 on my season predictions…

      After an extremely sluggish start (MS Hangover) , the Irish will run the ball all over the Redhawks..

      Miami stays in the game through the first two quarters plus (Similar to BC)..

      Irish 43
      Miami 21

      Anything less is not acceptable!!

      • John Vannie says:

        Not sure they can score 21 points unless they go wild during garbage time.

        • JVan,

          I think they will move the ball in the first half as our D will be looking ahead to the
          next few weeks (It happens every time after a big win).

          I hope you’re right!!!

    2. Elkhart Joe says:

      The Miami campus is a beautiful place and Oxford Ohio is really neat. I highly recommend a visit there and Cincinnati is very close and has more than one can see in a day. Some of the sights to see in Cincy are Mt. Adams, the old market place, the great downtown area.

    3. I wonder how many IRISH fans are going to sell their tickets for this game so the Red Hawks can have an almost home away from home feeling like Georgia did? Pretty embarrassing! Hope those of you that sold your tickets for that Georgia game are proud of yourself!!!!??????

    4. Imagine most major schools play like 3 of these types of games a year. How boring for the fan base! I know we seem to want to play one game a year like this and I can deal with that. This should be a game to get some back up reps, pad the stats, and pray for no injuries. ND 49-13

      • We play 5 games like this (Temple, BC, Wake Forest & Navy also). NC isn’t much either. Pretty much the same as every year, 7 home, 5 away. It will get interesting in 2019 and forward. Until then, not much elite competition. Some good games but not the heavyweights.

        • Agree, lately the ND schedules aren’t living up to those old ND standards. 2018 we pick up Michigan and FSU. 2019 is about the toughest road schedule you will see. Can’t wait, go Irish!

    5. ndgoldandblue says:

      I was the rah-rah type regarding Kelly, even through the 2011 USC debacle, until the epic collapse in 2014. After that season, I went into every game expecting the Irish to find a way to lose no matter who the opponent was, which made 2015 a pleasant surprise. Despite 2015, I had still lost all faith in the guy, and 2016 reaffirmed that. The only thing that gives me any hope now is that Kelly seems to have taken a role similar to the German President or the Queen of England–he’s a figurehead that waves and smiles while the real work is done by other people. Speaking of which, it looks like Elko and Long were good hires. The same goes for Matt Balis. The one thing they all have in common is they weren’t buddies of Kelly who came in to be yes-men. So, hopefully what we’ve seen so far this season (an emphasis on running the football, sound defense, etc.) becomes a trend and not just smoke and mirrors. But, Kelly is still the guy at the top, and until he’s gone, I’ll never go into a game against anyone, Miami of Ohio included, expecting the Irish to dominate even though their talent is superior. 42-10? Yeah, that could happen. But I wouldn’t surprise me if the Irish lost this game because, under Kelly, that’s what they do. They lose to teams that they have no business losing to. Not saying it’s going to happen. Just…never know what to expect with this guy, and I hate that.

      • So why would ND pay a figurehead 5-7 million dollars? An admission counselor or you could recruit these kids.

    6. Over the years ND has played many obscure programs to help them get a foothold on the national stage. Teams that were down for many years like the Miami Hurricanes and Purdue in the distant past. And we all know the story about the Naval Academy. Of course losing to Tulsa was not part of the plan but ND had good intentions. Sometimes it’s just to help out an old friend like Chuck Martin.

      GO IRISH!! BEAT the RedHawks

    7. irishhawk50 says:

      Maybe this doesn’t qualify as a “cupcake” game as Kelly says ND doesn’t schedule such games, but if the Irish are going to continue to schedule MAC teams I wish they would use them for season openers or somewhere between two tough power 5 teams. ND 48-10.

    8. agree
      the timing of this game seems rather odd. if you are going to play second tier teams use it to your advantage. I agree with comments above. As long as Kelly is coach no game is safe and special teams will always be worse than the opponent

    9. AlumniDawg97 says:

      There is just no pleasing some of you people.
      We could lose to this team? Really? Have another, friend.
      Today we are going to match last year’s win total, and it ain’t even October. Southern Cal is not invincible. D hasn’t looked this fundamentally sound in many years. Can I go out on a limb and humbly suggest that we just watch the game and enjoy?
      The last time I made the mistake of “waiting for the other shoe to drop”, Manti was playing. ND went undefeated (minus the obvious) and I spent all my time being critical and no time enjoying the ride.
      I’m not making that mistake again. We’ll be fine today. So pour yourself a lovely beverage of your choosing, stop nitpicking, and enjoy.
      ND by at least 3 TD’s. I agree with above that BK will not run it up against his buddy. Play all the seniors.

    10. Elkhart Joe says:

      I can’t see Miami doing much of anything against the Irish so I think your score for them is very optimistic. I will give them one TD. ND 42, Miami 7.