Beating the Miami Hurricanes Still Feels Damn Good

Photo: Brian Spurlock // USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Brian Spurlock // USA TODAY Sports

I was five years old when the infamous Notre Dame-Miami game took place in 1988.  I didn’t understand the significance of the game or why, when it ended, my parents celebrated like it was the happiest day of their lives.  Nor did I understand why my parents would watch the tape of the game over and over in the weeks after its ending.  And considering the Hurricanes had not set foot in Notre Dame Stadium in 26 years prior to last Saturday, everything I know of the rivalry lives in grainy footage and stories of Lou Holtz’s famed “Save Jimmy Johnson for me!” pregame locker room speech that still stirs Irish fans to this day.

Saturday’s clash with the Hurricanes had more of a feel of two former greats who are shadows of themselves going another round in their 50s for old time’s sake than a true rematch.   But the chipiness between the two teams is still there and surfaced occasionally, even if the true disdain for one another mostly lies dormant underneath decades of underachievement for both programs.  A win over Miami at Notre Dame Stadium still feels damn good even if beating them is no longer a major accomplishment.

And, at least for me personally, a win over Mark Richt was a long-time coming.  After Georgia’s tough loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Richt made comments during a radio interview implying a win over Notre Dame in the national championship that year would have been guaranteed for the Bulldogs had they won the SEC title, a comment that still does not sit well with me four years later.  So handing Richt his first four-game losing streak of his career on Saturday is extra sweet.  If you can’t beat Notre Dame when they’re at their lowest point of the Brian Kelly era, maybe you should stay away from radio interviews for awhile.

As good as it is to finally get back to the win column, this team is far from ridding itself of the problems that have derailed this season.  Chief among those concerns is the play of Notre Dame’s special teams.  Even if you give the special teams unit a mulligan for the loss of possession after Troy Pride was blocked into the ball leading to a turnover, two horrendous plays are left unaccounted for.  Notre Dame was completely unprepared for Miami’s onside kick to the point Notre Dame’s players did not even attempt to run toward the football, and the decision of C.J. Sanders to try and receive a punt off a bounce by the end zone – which provided Miami its first lead of the game – displayed a profound lack of situational awareness, which goes back to coaching and ensuring players are put in positions to succeed.

Notre Dame’s special teams play has been on par with its defensive production under former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, creating a fair question: What is the tipping point for Brian Kelly to make a change?  How many games must be lost or put in jeopardy due to special teams errors before Kelly realizes there is a serious underlying problem and a change must be made?  If Kelly is okay with changing defensive coordinators mid-season – which has proven to be an excellent move – why does special teams get a pass?

The offense and its penchant for disappearing throughout large portions of games this season continued against the Hurricanes.  After jumping to a 20-0 lead the offense became completely ineffective even when giftwrapped opportunities.  Miami was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty after making the game 20-14, setting up Notre Dame’s offense with possession at midfield.  The Irish needed to stop Miami’s momentum by putting some points on the board.  The offense responded by not only going three-and-out but by failing to gain a single yard (in fact, the offense lost two yards on the possession).

The lone perk of continual inconsistent offensive production is Notre Dame’s defense proved itself against arguably the best offensive attack it has faced all season.  While the offense sputtered interim defensive coordinator Greg Hudson’s squad slowed the Miami offense and held them at bay to a tune of 20 total points, allowing time for the offense to snap out of its funk and finish the Hurricanes off.  Defensive tackle Jarron Jones was an unblockable monster and caused havoc along Miami’s offensive line, and Hudson was able to dial-up blitzes that led to five Irish sacks, an impressive feat considering Notre Dame was the last program in the nation to record a sack this year.

The victory wasn’t pretty and the issues that have plagued this team are far from being fixed.  But Notre Dame beat Miami, and anytime that can be said it’s a good day, no matter what the record is for both programs.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for The Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor.  He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him.  Scott can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.


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    1. Guess we’re crappy enough to where we hear more about the women’s basketball team than we do the men’s football team.

    2. I looked at another site that had a Navy game analysis. They noted that Navy does not have a particularly strong defense this year, and picked us to win based on that. That analysis betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the flexbone philosophy – when the “bone” is clicking on all cylinders the Navy (or GT) defense is nearly irrelevant – they are sitting on the bench watching long time consuming drives that end in points. The opponent “O” (that would be us) is lucky to get more than one or two possessions a quarter (maybe eight or nine in the entire game). What difference does it make if their defense isn’t as strong as usual under those conditions? It would only take us one or two penalties on “O”, or one fumble, or one broken play on offense to lose a game like that. Forget about their “D” in your analysis – STOP THE FULLBACK, PLAY YOUR ASSIGNMENT, STAY IN POSITION, AND STAY ON YOUR FEET – AND DON’T GET BURNED ON A PLAY ACTION PASS. When their defense spends 40 minutes sitting on the bench – they tend to win. If our defense gets off the field on third downs, we will win. Our defense will win or lose this game – not their lack of defense. So make your own prediction, sir!

      Bruce GC 77′ 82′

  1. It was an entertaining 3.5 hours of Football Follies 2016.

    BK is typically about one full year late on firing under-performing assistants and benching players who can’t cut it. Therefore Booker has about 51 weeks left in his ND tenure.

  2. This year’s record is incredibly disappointing. The win over Miami is nice but discouraging at the same time.
    The fundamental mistakes in this game were amazing to me. On side kick and our player watched the ball and made no effort to recover the ball. Why a player who lets a punt hit the ground near the goal line and then at the last second tries to field it incomprehensible. I believe it would have bounced in the end zone. Regardless trying to make a play at that time near the end zone is a high risk low return proposition. This indicates the basics are not being coached and reinforced by the coaching staff. I think Coach Kelly is a good coach but he has to reassess the program. The effect of this year has kids reassessing their commitment. Lost Jeter who the Irish needed badly. Let’s hope we get bowl eligible…we need the practice Go Irish?

  3. It’s simple fire swarbrick from his football duties.
    Give him the rest. Hire Lou to find us the best ad and Hc in the nation. What in the hell are we waiting for?

    1. Are you dense?

      Lou Holtz is RETIRED, has been RETIRED, and will stay RETIRED, that’s why they call
      it being RETIRED.

      He’s NOT for hire!
      He’s RETIRED!

      That means that he has done all he wants to do in football and just wants to live in peace…
      in RETIREMENT!

      Simple enough for you?

      By the way… Alan Page is RETIRED too!

      1. Shaz,

        Forget trying to convince BJ of anything. He wants ND to grovel and beg Meyer to come to ND, even though he already crapped in their face before. He’s convinced himself Meyer and Saban are just waiting for that call from Swarbick and Swarbick is an idiot for not groveling.

      2. You are nasty
        Hire someone that knows what nd football really means victory
        You can hire anyone as a consultant

      3. Dave & Buster,

        You guys are more nasty.
        Hire someone
        You can hire anyone as a consultant… or therapist.

  4. Well Scott, I was a senior in the student section at the 1988 game. And I loved through the final Faust debacle and Jimmy Johnson runningmup the score. What made that game so special was that Johnson and his particular teams were the embodiment of evil. Whether it was the cocaine selling gun toting Michael Irvin, the discovery of faked classes by CBS investigative news shows. Or perhaps it was the notion that instead of teaching kids from the ghetto that behaving like the rest of society is good, Johnson and his crew celebrated ghetto gangland zip gun behavior as the new norm. Back then it was special.
    Additionally 10 years without a national championship was unacceptable. We knew we were due and we knew the coaches and players had done all the right things in the offseason to prepare for this. Ask Mark Green what January of 1988 was like and he’ll tell you that the season was much easier. So the coaches had a long view and prepared not just he players but themselves and the whole program.

    I don’t see that with Kelly. And unfortuantately with 20 years of failed expectations there isn’t even the DNA to recall what it took to be a championship contender. Remember that assistant coaches from Parseghian’s days still worked for Holtz. Davie cut the cord from ND’s past and the program has paid for it dearly.

    As far as Richt goes, I look past his 2012 comments even though I would have preferred that matchup. Kelly likely would have beaten that Georgia team as the Irish matched up a lot better than to Alabama. But he’s a good coach and even though he lost yesterday I bet he gets that program on track. The next meeting should be interesting.

    As for the win, It was less than satisfying. This Miami team is good not great. Not a rivalry anymore because the opponent is not hot and frankly both teams played honorably. This is not jimmy johnsons drug gang.
    What really made this win unsatisfyig is that nothing that should have improved in coaching has improved. Kelly shows that he can game plan but is too pig headed to adjust. He has shown that at this level he can solidify one or two units but not all three. Notre Dame has never had both a solid offense and a solid defense in the same season under Kelly. Nor have the special teams been very good.
    Kelly now suffers from predictable play calling. He also is committed to an offense that is finesse when it should be more power oriented.
    Hudson might just be the bright spot on that staff.
    I’m very glad for the players that they won the game. They deserve it. I just don’t think this coaching staff is serving the team or the fans very well. I guess let’s see if the Niners or Browns want Kelly after this season.

    1. Scott and C-Dog,
      Then in 1988 you both saw what I saw after every play starting sometime in the third quarter – three or four Miami players from sideline to sideline getting up slowly after each play. I later saw the TV tape (we all did I suppose) and you couldn’t really see that feature of the game on TV. Also, I never remember the stadium being louder than it was during that game. You literally could not hear yourself shouting. I was in the top row of Section 5, so I could not see the infamous fumble by the south endzone – but I was able to see Chudzinski make football move, tuck the ball away, take a step and a half, get clobbered by one of the three amigos, fumble, and then have the ref take the ball from our guy and hand the ball back to Miami. Didn’t matter anyway – I knew it wouldn’t.

      I also was glad for the players that they won that game last Saturday, they certainly derserved the win, but I fear the “switch” to defending the flexbone this week. It’s a tough switch to make in just a few days. Either way, I don’t think this Navy game will be as close as all the others have been this year – either we’ll stop the bone and blow them out, the way we blew up GT last year, or we won’t stop the bone and we’ll get beat pretty convincingly, probably losing the time of possesion stat by some awkward amount.

      Bruce GC
      La Crosse, Indiana

  5. Looks like I missed another “fulfilling” moment of ND entertainment. I was foolish enough to watch a real team with a real coach beat Utah in a modestly amusing affair (!).

    As far as this article headline goes: To let one’s most reviled enemy off the mat instead of stepping on their throat and ending it should NOT feel “damn good”. It should feel like the precise, long-term cancer plaguing ND football. And having this strategic idiot of a head coach won’t soon change that.

    1. Yep not sure how ND fans can feel real good about that circus act. Miami is mediocre at best. Good to get a win but not impressed at all. USC will clobber ND

    2. Wait until Notre Dame buys up all the footage of the real glory years and sells it like Disney. It already feels like Michael Eisner runs Notre Dame’s marketing wing.

      1. Not bitter Hurls just pissed off about the below average performance this year. This should not be happening. 5-7 or 6-6 is where i see this team finishing and that my friend is unacceptable. Fortunately I have a plan B team to follow.

    3. Washington is last years Mich St. Make the playoffs & get beat by 4 tds by Alabama. The real coach had back to back 6 loss seasons before this year.

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