Doing the bulk of their damage during a prolific first half, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish raised their record to 4-1 on the year with a 52-17 thrashing of the Miami of Ohio RedHawks on Saturday. The irish tallied 45 of those points during the opening two quarters and were able to coast the rest of the way.
The offensive explosion was once again keyed by the potent Notre Dame running game, though sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush again showed signs that he’s growing more confident in handling the passing side of things. The numbers indicate that he completed just eight of 19 passes for 125 yards,but three of those completions were for touchdowns, including a 54-yard toss in the final minute of the first half. The rout also allowed Ian Book to see plenty of fourth quarter action.
Below are some other key facets to this convincing victory:
Big Play Josh Adams
In a scene that’s become almost commonplace during the 2017 campaign, running back Josh Adams helped Notre Dame quickly take control of the game, eliminating any hints of an upset in the making. On just the second play of the contest, Adams took off on a 73-yard touchdown run and before the first quarter had ended, he added a 59-yard scoring dash.
On the day, Adams only added 27 more yards on six carries, yet those two running explosions helped him finish with a 19.9 yard average on his carries. That ability to be a game-breaking back is what the Irish have needed, with Adams now having racked up five runs of more than 50 yards this year.
With Saturday’s output, Adams is already at 658 yards on the ground this season. Considering that he’ll be facing a weak North Carolina squad next week, he’s looking like a strong candidate to reach the 800-yard threshold, which would put him within breathing distance of his 933 yards from last year.
Taking advantage of the other team’s errors is a central component to winning and Notre Dame took that mantra to heart on Saturday by quickly turning a pair of first quarter turnovers by the RedHawks into two touchdowns. The first came on Miami’s opening series, when Greer Martini picked off a Gus Ragland pass and returned it 42 yards. Seven plays later, the Irish had doubled their lead less than four minutes into the game.
Late in that opening period, Ragland fumbled after being sacked by Jerry Tillery, with Jay Hayes falling on the ball. In a span of five plays and 95 seconds, Wimbush and Chase Claypool eventually connected on seven-yard score that made it 28-7 in favor of the Irish. For good measure, a pair of pass interference calls against the RedHawks eventually resulted in 14 Notre Dame points.
Bringing the Heat
One area in 2016 that was sorely lacking for the Irish was their ability to get to the quarterback. Doing it against a signal caller like Ragland was especially important, given his output in the past year and is why the three sacks and five hurries that the defense was able to deliver was another bright spot.
That gives Notre Dame a total of 11 sacks on the year, which means that entering the month of October, the Irish are exactly 11 sacks ahead of last year. Yes, at this time last year, the non-existent pass rush had come up empty against enemy quarterbacks, making this resurgence something to watch in the final seven games of the regular season.
Stopping the Run
Working in tandem with a stronger pass rush was a rushing defense that again prevented any opposing runners from reaching the end zone. The 115 yards allowed against Miami is somewhat skewed by the relaxed atmosphere of fourth quarter garbage time, though the stark difference in first quarter numbers shows that the RedHawks weren’t going to get much done on the ground.
Thanks to Adams’ two big runs, Notre Dame held a commanding edge in rushing yardage, collecting 158 yards on their own and holding Miami to minus-nine yards during the first 15 minutes. By that point, the Irish already held a 21-point lead at 28-7 and whatever rushing yards the RedHawks would end up gaining wouldn’t amount to much.
Though the Irish are now headed back on the road with a date next Saturday in Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Tar Heel squad they’ll be facing is in the midst of a rebuilding year. North Carolina will be entering this contest with a 1-4 record and are coming off a 33-7 road defeat at Georgia Tech.
Despite the inviting prospect of facing a team that very well could be in a death spiral for 2017, Notre Dame needs to take care of their business in this clash. Otherwise, they’ll head into their bye week on a down note, with the challenging prospect of having to face the powerful Southern Cal Trojans on October 21.