Saturday night was a rough game to watch for #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2) fans. After the game all I heard from the arm chair coaches on the message boards were things like “they weren’t prepared”, “they came out flat”, “the stage was too big for them”, “Brian Kelly can’t win the big one”, “Fire Kelly”. Normally a 41-8 blowout loss comes with a lot of questions, but after starting the season 8-1 and being ranked #3 this past week in the College Football Playoff rankings it’s really tough to say anything like that other than the Miami Hurricanes (9-0) came out of the gates playing with intensity and swagger.
Were the Irish unprepared? Let’s look at the offensive statistics, Brandon Wimbush took the reigns to begin and promptly connected on just 2 of his first 6 passes while running back Josh Adams had 2 no gain carries in his first 3 in that first drive that resulted in a punt. That was the best drive the team had in the first half before Wimbush was replaced by Ian Book late in the first half. Book showed some poise while in there until he stared down his receiver for a few seconds as Miami’s Trajan Bandy stepped in front of a pass and Bandy returned the ball 65 yards for a pick six TD and a 27-0 Miami lead going into the half.
The Irish offense struggled mightily all game and couldn’t get the running game going as the Hurricanes defense stifled them throughout. Adams didn’t show his usual explosiveness as he tallied only 40 yards on 16 carries. The running game as a whole combined for a meager 109 yards on the ground, a far cry from the numbers they have been putting up all year. The Hurricanes defense gave the Irish offensive line fits as they registered 9 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Add in the fact that the Wimbush was hurried basically all game as that put the Irish behind the eight ball.
Wimbush came into this game with a mere 2 interceptions in the first 9 games, this game alone Wimbush tossed 2 INT’s. Wimbush finished the game completing 10 of 21 passes for 119 yards with 1 late game score and added 24 yards on 11 carries. Four turnovers on offense with no takeaways won’t win you many games.
Kelly stated after the game, “We didn’t see this coming.” “Obviously, we felt we were prepared to play at a high level. We did not.”
Let’s delve into the defensive statistics. The Irish gave up 237 yards rushing as Miami running back Travis Homer eluded Irish defenders all night long en route to a 146 yard night on 18 carries. Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier completed 15 of his 24 passes for 137 yards and a TD toss. Rosier added 44 yards on the ground on 9 carries and a score.
Field position played a major roll in Miami’s early scoring drives. Miami had touchdown drives of 58 and 32 yards giving the Hurricanes an early 14-0 lead. The Irish defense did hold the Hurricanes to two field goals as they halted drives but with no offensive production things looked bleak.
At that point with Miami leading 20-0 there was still a slight chance to get back into the game. Last year in South Bend, the Irish were up on Miami 20-0 at the half but gave up the lead as the Hurricanes stormed back but to tie but eventually lost to the Irish.
It was the Book interception for a pick six that took the air out of the sails for Notre Dame. Couple that and the Hurricanes first drive in the second half that covered 9 plays and 90 yards that resulted in a DeeJay Dallas 4 yard TD run and at that time gave Miami a 34-0 lead.
The Irish did get on the board in the third quarter as they put together a 10 play 80 yard drive that resulted in Wimbush finding tight end Alize Mack for a 14 yard TD pass. Wimbush then called his own number and ran in for a 2-point conversion and the only points the Irish had all night.
Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said, “Credit to them all over the place, they played a whole game.”
With this Miami blowout victory, it will most likely propel the Hurricanes into the top 4 of the College Football Playoff bracket come Tuesday night when the rankings come out.
“Say whatever you want about us,” Miami receiver Braxton Berrios stated. “But at the end of the day, we’re going to make you respect us.” Berrios laid out in the end zone and snagged the first touchdown of the night.
The loss has basically dropped Notre Dame out of all the Playoff talk but if they win out and finish 10-2 they could be looking at a New Years Day big 6 Bowl game. With his second consecutive sub par rushing game, Adams is most likely all but out of the Heisman talk. It was a rough night all across the board for the Irish, but it is just one game.
Next up for the Irish is Senior Day Saturday against Navy. It’ll be a chance for Kelly and his squad to bounce back.