Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Defense Suffocates Miami Ground Game

Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

What looked to a be a blowout turned into a nail-biting win for the Irish as they came away with a 30-27 victory over the Miami Hurricanes. While the scoring shows 27 unanswered points for Miami, 14 of those points were directly attributable to special teams blunders. The first changed the momentum of the game and the second gave the Hurricanes their only lead.

Putting Forth a Sack Attack

Miami’s offense had been stopped cold in the first 20 minutes of this Notre Dame Miami 2016 matchup, helping explain why they only finished with 306 total yards. The Notre Dame defense brought down quarterback Brad Kaaya five times, including on the game’s last play, and had seven other tackles-for-loss. Coming into the contest, it was the Hurricanes who led all FBS teams in the latter category, in contrast to the vitriol directed at Irish defenders.

Shutting Down the Running Game

In looking at the Miami offensive breakdown, it was 42 passes and 35 running plays, yet the Hurricane running game was non-existent in this Notre Dame Miami game. While the aforementioned sacks certainly helped in lowering the final rushing numbers, gaining 18 net yards on the ground showed an aggressive defensive approach that was lacking for much of the campaign.

Rubber Band Men

The Notre Dame defense made Miami work for their 13 other points, which required a total of 33 plays. Those drives took over 13 minutes combined and ran the risk of exhausting that side of the ball for the Irish. However, given the horrendous season this unit has had, the bending but not breaking approach was a badly-needed booster shot that needs to be refined in the weeks ahead.

A Solid Start

Prior to those scoring drives, Notre Dame’s defense was on an incredible run during the first one-third of this Notre Dame Miami 2016 football contest. Four of the first five Hurricane drives gained two yards or less, including a pair in the negative category. That’s an unsustainable pace to maintain against a team of Miami’s caliber, yet their effort afterward still would have avoided the late dramatics that were caused by the two fumbles on punt returns.

The Third Down Connection

The importance of stopping the Hurricane offense on third down in this Notre Dame Miami game can be seen when breaking down the efficiency in this specific area. On Miami’s four offensive scores, they faced a third down eight times and converted on six occasions. Every other time they had the ball, a third down came up 11 different times, with failure being the result on all but one of those attempts.

Next Up

The Irish begin two consecutive weeks against armed services teams, beginning with a neutral site matchup against Navy in Jacksonville. A bowl bid is still within reach, but they’ll be facing a Midshipmen offense that’s scored over 40 points in seven games.

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  1. Few comments…

    Good to see that we actually won one of these close games. I know it was bad that we let them back in but the first half of the season we would have found a way to lose that one.

    Jarron Jones was a freakin beast out there. Where the hell has that been? Scheme? Letting our kids be athletes instead of thinking too much? Maybe…

    CJ Sanders better shape up. I know he is explosive but he really killed us in this game twice. The punt that hit Pride’s leg was NOT Pride’s fault. That ball was in the air for 10 minutes and Sanders let it hit the turf. If the coaches are too stupid to coach him to come up and fair catch those balls, then they need to be fired. However, my guess is that Sanders simply lacks the instincts to do that. There have been several times this has happened this year either resulting in a ball hitting our own player OR the ball rolling 20 more yards. It was good to see Finke have a really nice return. Go Knights!!!

    Kelly is still an idiot with the play calling sometimes. 4th and 1 and we call a quick hit to a WR 5 yards behind the LOS and take a 5 yard loss. WTF!?!?

  2. Lets talk about the Middies,. My sainted Irish Grandfather was Navy through and through., (Purple Heart, Battle of Midway, CV-5 Yorktown, etc.) When I was a kid I would ask Him”who are you for Grandpa,Notre Dame Fighting Irish or Navy”He would reply in His fine Irish brogue “oh, me Navy lads will whip em” So I have mixed emotions of this game. My favorite game was when the clock ran out and We kicked the field goal in 1984. This time I expect us to control the Navy run game and get badly needed victory #4.

    1. Mike,
      If Hudson can get these guys ready and able to handle that flexbone in one week – that would be proof enough to me that he’s our guy! A lot of darn good DC’s get humiliated by the flexbone, both against Navy and against Georgia Tech!

      PS – my father and two uncles were WW2 marines…one was wounded invading an island (Tarawa, maybe)…three other uncles were Navy…one was wounded in a kamakazee attack.

      Bruce GC
      La Crosse, Indiana

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