Wow. What a way to end the season for Notre Dame. After a surprising three game winning streak to end the season, Notre Dame capped off its last season resurgence with a 33-17 victory over Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Notre Dame dominated the game from start to finish with Miami never seriously challenging. The win gives Notre Dame a 8-5 record – something no one saw coming after Tommy Rees pass was intercepted in the end zone to end the Tulsa game on Halloween night.
Here are some initial thoughts on the game.
- If this was Michael Floyd’s last game in a Notre Dame uniform, he went out on a high note with a game high 106 yards on 6 catches with 2 touchdowns. He nearly had another two touchdowns but dropped one and was just overthrown on another. Floyd was absent for most of the second half after apparently getting nicked up.
- Tommy Rees was solid in his first bowl game. He missed some throws and left some plays on the field, but he avoided making the kind of mistakes he made against USC and led the Irish to its second bowl win in the last 17 years. He ended up with 195 on 16 of 30 passing with the 2 touchdowns to Floyd. Some of Rees weaknesses were shown in the second half, but we have all off-season to discuss the quarterback race for 2011.
- Both Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes ran hard. As a team, Notre Dame topped 200 yards rushing with Wood and Hughes leading the way. Wood had 85 yards on just 11 carries including a nifty 34 yard touchdown in the second quarter while Hughes added 84 yards on 27 carries.
- Wood will need to spend some time in the weight room this off-season to help him run between the tackles, but he looks like he has a very bright future.
- Tyler Eifert is another player with a bright future and he was 2nd on the team in receptions with 4 catches for 31 yards.
- Overall, the offensive line did a great job giving Rees a pocket to throw from. Rees was hardly ever under duress when he dropped back. Run blocking was a little more inconsistent – especially in the second half – but the line came to play in the first half while Notre Dame was building its lead.
- Theo Riddick was incorporated more into the game plan, but still wasn’t targeted often in the passing game. Riddick took a lot of snaps in the wildcat and ended up with 31 yards on the ground on 8 carries.
- John Goodman and TJ Jones both came up with key third down catches in the 4th quarter to help Notre Dame control the clock.
- This offense is still a shell of what it can be, but they were effective on Friday against a talented defense.
- Wow, what a game from Harrison Smith. Notre Dame’s most improved player on defense this year capped off his rebound year with three first half interceptions – tying a Sun Bowl record. Smith has a fifth year of eligibility left and could be in line for a stellar season in 2011 if he comes back.
- The Irish defense was stellar in the first half, but the lack of a pass rush let Miami get back in the game in the second half once Jacory Harris was benched.
- The Notre Dame defense just wasn’t the same without Manti Te’o after he left the game with an injury. He is clearly the cog that makes the Irish defense go and without him, Miami moved the ball.
- Gary Gray continued to show why he is the best corner on the team with another strong performance. Like Harrison Smith, he has another year of eligibility left and should be one of the leaders of the team next year.
- Ian Wiliams had a nice return from injury and turned in a great finale for his Irish career. Williams got a strong push up the middle and was a key reason for Miami’s inability to run the ball in the first half.
- Robert Blanton led the team with 9 tackles and had an interception of his own. He should be able to step into Darrin Walls’ starting spot next year without the Irish missing a beat.
- Notre Dame registered just one tackle for loss, but it was a big play. Darius Flemming stuffed Miami on 4th and 1 when the game was still somewhat in doubt.
- Austin Collinsworth opened the game with a nice kick return that included a few broken tackles. Collinsworth hustle play set the tone early and was a sign of things to come.
- Unfortunately David Ruffer’s field goal streak was snapped when he missed a 36 yarder in the third quarter. Ruffer did make 4 other field goals though from 19, 34, 40, and 50 yards.
- Notre Dame needs to rework the punt return team for 2011, because it was a non-factor all season including today. John Goodman did a solid job fielding punts, but Notre Dame was unable to change field position with punt returns at all this year.
- Ben Turk capped of his season by nailing 3 of his 4 punts inside the 20 – a nice way to end what has been at times an inconsistent season.
Happy New Year to all of our readers!