The Notre Dame Fighting Irish watched whatever hopes of a national championship melt away in the South Florida heat by being on the receiving end of a 41-8 thrashing by the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night. The game was effectively over at halftime after the Hurricanes headed to intermission with a commanding 27-0 lead.
An inability to muster any real offense and committing costly turnovers were two of the key issues that put the Irish in a huge hole after a promising start on their first series ran out of gas. The Notre Dame defense was able to keep Miami in check during their first series, but good field position in the subsequent drive helped eventually lead to the Hurricane floodgates engulfing the Irish.
Below are some of the key facets of the loss:
Nowhere to Run
Notre Dame’s running game had served the team well during the school’s first nine games, especially when it came to the presence of Josh Adams. Against Miami, none of the running backs nor quarterback Brandon Wimbush was able to get any sort of ground game established, especially during the disastrous first half.
Taking away a meaningless 12-yard run in the closing seconds of the first half with the Irish trailing 27-0, Adams collected just 28 yards on 15 other carries on the night. Numbers like that will make Adams’ road to the Heisman that much harder. Indicative of just how bad a night it was for Notre Dame is that his numbers were the high point in this department, which finished with 109 yards on 36 carries.
Adams has delivered home-run scores all season long, but facing the Hurricanes, it was a Homer who did the most damage. That was Miami’s Travis Homer, who managed to gain 146 yards on his 18 carries.
Chain of Disaster
One of the things that the Irish needed to avoid was coughing up the ball, in order to avoid offering the Hurricanes the opportunity to hype their Turnover Chain. That plan disintegrated during the first two quarters when Notre Dame signal callers threw three interceptions that led to 17 Miami points.
The count might have been four, but a tipped pass during the first series fell to the ground. That scare became reality when Wimbush was picked off just after the Hurricanes had scored their first touchdown. Miami needed just two plays to double their lead to 14-0.
Pick number two came deep in Irish territory and miraculously only resulted in a Hurricane field goal to make it 17-0. However the final interception was a pick-six in the final minute that was returned 66 yards for the score and served as the back-breaker for Brian Kelly’s squad.
Line Under Siege
What had been a resurgence in the team’s offensive line for 2017 stalled out, with Irish signal callers getting sacked five times. Then again, this area knew that they’d be facing a stiff challenge beforehand, considering that Miami came into the contest leading the country with 8.8 tackles-for-loss per game.
By the time the game had ended, the Hurricanes had ever-so-slightly improved on that average by racking up nine tackles-for-loss. Miami’s front seven has their usual supply of athleticism about them and they delivered a painful lesson to the Notre Dame protectors all night long.
The last two regular season opponents, Navy and Stanford, don’t have the talent base of the Hurricane defenders, which will likely mean that the Irish line will get back to what had been normal. However, it’s clear that they received a dose of reality against Miami.
A Step Back
Wimbush had made impressive strides during the first nine games, but he hit a collective brick wall after completing two of his three early passes. For the remainder of the half, he missed on seven pass attempts and tossed two of those disastrous picks, with Ian Book tossing the deadly pick-six.
Returning to play after halftime, Wimbush managed to connect with Alize Mack for the only Irish score, but the game had long since been decided by that point. Meanwhile, his running was limited to just 24 yards on 11 carries and he also fumbled away the ball on one series.
The final home game for 2017 means Senior Day and will pit the Fighting Irish against their longtime rivals, the Navy Midshipmen who are coming into the contest with a 6-3 mark. In their last game, Navy watched a 34-11 halftime advantage turn into a 40-40 tie with 3:32, though a field goal at the gun gave the Midshipmen the win.
This longstanding series dates back 90 years to the Rockne era, which is appropriate since Notre Dame will be wearing the Rockne Heritage uniforms in this game. The Irish have absolutely dominated this series, holding a 76-13-1 advantage, but will be looking for revenge after last year’s 28-27 heartbreaker in Jacksonville.