No. 7 Hurricanes Dominate No. 3 Notre Dame, 41-8
By David Villavicencio
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Miami Hurricanes earned the reputation of being a big game team in the 1980s and 90s, but the 2017 Canes looked like some of the legendary UM teams of the past in their dominant 41-8 victory over No. 3 Notre Dame Saturday night.
The No. 7 Hurricanes (9-0, 6-0 ACC) faced the rival Fighting Irish (8-2) in Miami for the first time in nearly three decades and they, along with a loud crowd of 65,303 fans at Hard Rock Stadium, made sure to remind Notre Dame of what it was like to play the Canes in their home stadium.
“What a wonderful night for our fans, for our players, every single person who’s a part of this program,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “It’s amazing what can happen when everybody works together and just cares about each other, loves each other and just trusts each other enough for everybody to do their job. Just really impressed with our team tonight. Notre Dame, without a doubt, is a great team. It’s obvious. It just got away from them. I never would have predicted what happened, but it happened and I’m thankful for it and I’m proud of the guys.”
Miami’s win snapped a four-game losing streak against the Irish and was its sixth consecutive home victory over Notre Dame dating back to 1981. It also extended the Hurricanes’ FBS-leading win streak to 14 games. The Canes’ last loss came at Notre Dame on Oct. 29, 2016.
“It’s a culmination of everything we have been through for the past four years for this senior class,” Offensive lineman Kc McDermott said. “It proves that we don’t quit. There were plenty of times, and I’m sure people can look back to our sophomore year when we played Clemson, and thought that senior class isn’t going to do anything. We came out this season and said ‘let’s prove people wrong and go win some games.’ We’re going to win games and we take them one at a time. We’ve imparted that wisdom on the younger guys too and let them know it’s one game at a time and focus on what we have to do every single week.”
The Hurricanes also clinched the ACC Coastal Division title with Virginia’s loss to Louisville earlier in the day, assuring Miami a date with defending national champion and ACC Atlantic champ Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Charlotte, N.C.
“It was a big day to win the Coastal,” Richt said. “So much was put into that very thing. We wanted to win the Coastal. We wanted to go to Charlotte. We wanted to win the game when we got there. We talked a lot about that. It was one of the things we felt like we could control. We weren’t ready to talk much bigger that that. By the time we got to this game, it became more than a Coastal Division championship, it became an opportunity to truly be in the conversation for a Playoff bid. So, we didn’t run from it, but we didn’t dwell on it either. We just were excited about putting ourselves in position to play a game like this with this kind of significance. How can you not play hard for that crowd? It was amazing. I’m still sweating form the humidity; it was a very humid night, which I loved. And I’m sure it was a little bit tough on them to play in this type of temperature or humidity.”
The hype entering the game surrounded Notre Dame’s offensive line that was paving the way for a rushing offense that averaged 324.8 yards per game. But Miami’s defense stifled the Fighting Irish ground game, holding Notre Dame to 109 rushing yards. Heisman Trophy candidate Josh Adams, who came in averaging 132.3 rushing yards per game (8.69 yards per carry), was held to 40 yards on 16 carries for an average of 2.5 yards per carry.
“I think the credit has to go to our players,” Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “They had studied what they like to do and what they didn’t like to do. They just lined up and played with tenacity that maybe they hadn’t seen so far before. We have a lot of respect for them, but we feel like we are pretty good ourselves and I think we presented some things to them that they haven’t seen.”
Miami’s ground attack fared much better, as sophomore Travis Homer exploded for 146 yards on 18 carries, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. As a team, the Canes averaged 5.6 yards per carry against Notre Dame, amassing 237 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on 42 touches.
“We had a mental mentality today to go out and prove everybody wrong,” McDermott said. “They had the best rushing offense in the country and we wanted to prove that they should be talking about us because we’re a pretty damn good offensive line, too.”
While the running game was outstanding, Miami’s offense found the end zone for the first time on Saturday through the air. Senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios laid out to haul in a pass from quarterback Malik Rosier and then tapped both feet in the end zone to make the seven-yard touchdown official and give the Hurricanes a 7-0 lead with 4:01 remaining in the opening quarter.
“It’s incredible,” Berrios said. “This is why you come to Miami. This is why you play college football. We’re going to the ACC championship for the first time in the school’s history. That was our first goal of the year. That was number one. We knew we had accomplished that right before the game started but nothing was said about it. We had this to focus on. We had bigger things to attend to right now. To come out here and put on that dominating performance is why you play.”
The Hurricanes broke the turnover chain out on Notre Dame’s ensuing drive, as junior safety Jaquan Johnson caught a tipped pass from Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush that was intended for wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. The interception was Johnson’s second in consecutive weeks and third of the season and gave the Hurricanes the ball at the Notre Dame 32. Johnson finished the game with a team-high eight tackles, one tackle for loss, an interception and a pass breakup.
“We just came out and played to our standard,” Johnson said. “We wanted to come out and compete against a great offensive line and a great running back and quarterback. We wanted to hold them to as minimum yards as possible so that’s what we did tonight, we came out and competed and were able to dominate them.”
Rosier opened the possession in Fighting Irish territory by throwing a strike to freshman receiver Jeff Thomas for a 16-yard game. One play later, the redshirt junior quarterback scampered for a 16-yard touchdown run that put Miami ahead, 14-0, with 2:33 left in the first quarter. Rosier finished the game completing 15 of 24 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. He has now thrown a touchdown in all 10 starts in his career.
After forcing a punt on Notre Dame’s next possession, the Hurricanes’ offense opened its fourth drive with freshman receiver DeeJay Dallas at quarterback in a wildcat formation. The Georgia native and former high school quarterback ran for 30 yards on the first three plays of the possession, including a 25-yard run that put Miami at Notre Dame’s 24. The Fighting Irish held Miami to a 25-yard field goal by Michael Badgley. The senior kicker gave the Canes a 17-0 lead and tied Carlos Huerta’s school record for all-time field goals at 73.
Freshman punter Zach Feagles’ 51-yard punt rolled out of bounds at the Notre Dame 7. The Fighting Irish had 7:29 on the clock when they opened their possession, but nine seconds later it was Miami’s ball.
The turnover chain made its second appearance when Wimbush threw his second interception of the night, hitting Miami corner Malek Young at the Notre Dame 22 and the sophomore corner sprinted 13 yards to give the Canes the ball at the Fighting Irish 9. Four plays after Young’s interception, Badgley hit a 30-yard field goal to give the Hurricanes a 20-0 lead and become Miami’s all-time leader in field goals made with 74.
“I think just credit to them all over the place,” Notre dame senior linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “They played a whole game and made plays when they needed to make plays on the offensive side of the ball and defensive side of the ball. Credit to their fans, that was the loudest game I’ve ever played in.”
Wimbush was benched following the interception, as Ian Book entered the game at quarterback on Notre Dame’s next possession and the sophomore did not fare much better.
“This is to me natural order restored,” Diaz said. “This is the way a Saturday night in Miami should be. It should be a big time game with two great teams with an amazing atmosphere. The crowd absolutely had a role. They helped us. It’s still an inexperienced quarterback that has not played many road games. It was rough in there. It’s hard. I think some of the mistakes that he made early in the game with the crowd noise, it starts to snowball on a guy, so our fans deserve a lot of credit in the way we played defense tonight.”
Freshman corner Trajan Bandy jumped in front of a Book pass on third-and-6 from the UM 38 and returned the interception 65 yards for a touchdown. The pick six was Miami’s first defensive score of the season and gave the Hurricanes a 27-0 lead at halftime.
“I just came down hill,” Bandy said. “I saw the quarterback look to that side and we we’re doing that play over and over in practice, once he threw the ball I saw green grass and took it to the house. It was a game-changing moment and I couldn’t be more excited to take it to the house.”
The Hurricanes held Notre Dame to just 89 yards of total offense in the first half, including 56 yards rushing. Wimbush (2-for-10 for 30 yards) and Book (3-for-6 for 33 yards) combined for 66 passing yards and three interceptions, completing 31 percent of the pass attempts in the first half.
“It took every person that was out there, every person that was rotating,” linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said. “It took effort throughout the week preparing for this team because they were and they are a great rushing team, so we prepared, prepared and prepared even more. And then when we came out it was almost as if we were over-prepared; we were on edge. I’ve never seen our players like that before, just with all the disrespect that we got, feeling that we were just overlooked constantly. After every win that we got, we were still overlooked. We just had to—it was for the coaches, it was for the tradition.”
The Fighting Irish became the first Power 5 team to be shut out in the first half by Miami at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami previously held Georgia Tech scoreless in the opening half of its 2007 game at the Orange Bowl.
Miami came out of the locker room ready to play, scoring on its opening drive of the second half. Rosier hit redshirt sophomore receiver Lawrence Cager on fourth-and-9 from the Notre Dame 36 for a 28-yard gain to give Miami a new set of downs from the Notre Dame 8. Three plays later, Dallas rushed for a four-yard touchdown that put the Hurricanes up, 34-0.
“It was pretty apparent to me that that drive was pretty much a back-breaker,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.
Wimbush was back under center for the Fighting Irish to open the second half and he got Notre Dame on the scoreboard with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter, connecting with tight end Alize Mack for a 14-yard touchdown. The quarterback ran in from two yards out on the ensuing two-point conversion to make it 34-8, Miami.
For the second straight week. Jonathan Garvin forced a strip sack and recovered the fumble for the Canes. The freshman defensive end beat projected first-round pick Mike McGlinchey with a speed rush second-and-10 from the Notre Dame 42 and sacked Wimbush for a loss of seven and fell on the ball at the Notre Dame 30 to secure Miami’s fourth turnover of the night.
Saturday marked the fourth straight game the Hurricanes defense forced four turnovers. According to ESPN’s Chris Fallica, Miami is the only team to force four turnovers in four consecutive games against Power 5 opponents dating back to 2004.
“That was beautiful,” Richt said. “How many turnovers did we give up? None? That’s good too, right? We just give a chain for that. We’ve got to give a third-down conversion chain or something. But, I think it’s awesome. I think most people see our kids are having fun with it. We’re not trying to be anything other than enjoying celebrating something that happens. People have a different way to celebrate at turnover. We’re not the first ones to do that, we just got the best one. We’ve got the one that draws the most attention. And the fact that we’re getting so many turnovers, people are seeing a lot more than maybe somebody else’s way of doing it.”
Following Garvin’s fumble recovery, the Canes ran eight straight running plays to find their way to the end zone. Miami’s offense covered 30 yards over four minutes and 50 seconds before Dallas ran into the end zone from four yards out to score his second touchdown of the night and give Miami a 41-8 lead with four minutes left in the game.
The Hurricanes finished the game with 374 yards of total offense while holding Notre Dame to 261 total yards. Senior Trent Harris has two of Miami’s five sacks on the night, while sophomores Joe Jackson and Zach McCloud each had 1.5 of Miami’s nine tackles for loss.
Before Saturday’s overwhelming loss to Miami, Notre Dame’s last trip to Hard Rock Stadium ended in a 42-14 loss to Alabama in BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2013 and their last victory over the Hurricanes in Miami came in 1977.
“Chad Thomas and I talked after the game and he said, ‘it’s not over. We’re not back,'” Rosier said. “I told him, ‘I agree.’ I said, ‘we’re not back until I have a ring on my finger.’ The old school U won national championships and dominated every opponent they played. So yea, it’s a great win against a great team, but we still have other games to play. We’ve got Virginia, Pitt and now Clemson in the ACC Championship. We’ve got a long way to go and we’ve got to get ready.”
Miami is back at Hard Rock Stadium next Saturday for a matchup against the Virginia Cavaliers. The game, which is set to kickoff at noon and will be broadcast on ABC, will serve as Senior Day for the Hurricanes. Click here for ticket information.