Head-to-Head: Notre Dame vs. Miami
Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, October 4, 2012
The Irish have seen junior quarterback Stephen Morris before. That time was on a cold winter’s day in El Paso, Texas on Dec. 31, 2010 and Morris was just a freshman then. Morris relieved former starter Jacory Harris and his three interceptions and threw for 282 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the Hurricanes 33-17 loss in the Sun Bowl.
Now, he’ll get a real shot at the Irish fresh off a record-setting performance. In last week’s 44-37 win over NC State, Morris set an ACC record with 566 passsing yards and five touchdowns, including 271 passing yards in the first quarter alone. The junior already has 1,635 passing yards and nine touchdowns this season and averages 21.77 yards per completion. Morris leads an offense that has recorded over 400 total yards of offense in the last three games, including 651 yards against the Wolfpack.
Sophomore receiver Phillip Dorsett poses the biggest threat to the young Irish secondary. Dorsett is the only receiver in the country with at least two games of at least 180 receiving yards and has 16 receptions for 375 yards in the last two games. Against NC State, the sophomore wideout set a career high with 191 receiving yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
Only three schools average more interceptions per game than Notre Dame, which has already equaled its total from all of last year with eight.
Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson and senior linebacker Manti Te’o each have three, good enough for sixth-best in the nation. Freshman safety Elijah Shumate and sophomore safety Matthias Farley continue to impress as they gain more reps with the first team. The Irish are also ninth in the country in sacks with 3.5 per game.
But the Miami passing attack comes into the Shamrock Series with a lot of momentum and confidence as the main reason behind this three-game winning streak.
The Hurricanes boast a dual-threat rushing attack with senior running back Mike James and freshman running back and kick returner Duke Johnson. In the Sun Bowl, Notre Dame held James to only 14 yards rushing and receiving. So far this season, James has accumulated 278 yards and three touchdowns on 60 carries.
Johnson provides the Hurricanes with a big-play threat, averaging 6.9 yards per carry with a season-long run of 56 yards. Johnson has 359 yards on 52 carries and provides a nice change-up to James’ rushing style. The two-time ACC Rookie of the Week ranks first in the ACC in all-purpose yards with 184 per game and leads the Hurricanes with seven touchdowns in his first season.
Notre Dame is the only team in the country to have not given up a rushing touchdown on the season. The Irish are especially tough in the red zone, only giving up two touchdowns in 10 red zone trips.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
HURRICANES OFFENSIVE COACHING
Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has shown week after week that his defense will be prepared for anything. The defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in its last two games, both against top-25 teams with legitimate Heisman candidates.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
HURRICANES SPECIAL TEAMS
Johnson leads the Miami return games, and already has a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. But redshirt senior kicker Jake Wieclaw has missed on both of his field-goal attempts of 40-plus yards and has a season high of 38 yards.
In the 13-6 win over No. 18 Michigan on Sept. 22, Notre Dame accumulated only 239 total yards despite getting six turnovers from its defense. Against the Wolverines, Irish coach Brian Kelly pulled sophomore quarterback Everett Golson after an ill-advised throw in the endzone that resulted in his second interception of the night.
Junior quarterback Tommy Rees managed the game efficiently, but struggled to put up points and put Michigan away early. Rees threw for 115 yards on 8-for-11 passing with no touchdowns, but no turnovers either.
In fact, the Irish only have three passing touchdowns this season, but average 13 yards per catch. Sophomore receiver DaVaris Daniels leads Notre Dame with 159 receiving yards on nine receptions. Senior tight end Tyler Eifert came into the year as one of the top receiving tight ends in the country, but only has one catch in his last two games, which came on a 38-yard reception from Rees on third-down to seal the victory over Michigan. Despite returning to running back before the season started, senior running back Theo Riddick leads the Irish with 14 receptions, mostly from out of the backfield.
Against NC State last week, junior quarterback Stephen Morris’ stellar performance overshadowed a very shaky Miami secondary that gave up 440 passing yards and four touchdowns to senior Wolfpack quarterback John Glennon. Freshman safety Deon Bush leads the Hurricanes secondary with 18 solo tackles.
The Notre Dame rushing attack is a major reason why the Irish are the only team in the FBS to have never trailed at any point this season. Riddick leads the way with 242 yards and two touchdowns, and has emerged as a surprising between-the-tackles rushing threat in short-yardage situations.
After a breakout performance (99 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries) in Notre Dame’s 50-10 victory over Navy in Dublin on Sept. 1, sophomore running back George Atkinson has seen limited action, especially since the return of senior running back Cierre Wood from a two-game suspension.
The Hurricane defense has forced 12 turnovers this season, with seven of those being fumbles. Redshirt freshman linebacker Eddie Johnson leads the Hurricanes with three forced fumbles and 31 tackles. But the Miami defense gave up 287 rushing yards in a 42-36 overtime win over Georgia Tech on Sept. 22 and 224 rushing yards to NC State last week. The Hurricane defense has been prone to give up points this year as well, coming into the week ranked 100th in the country with 33.4 points per game allowed.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME
IRISH OFFENSIVE COACHING
With the exception of Bethune-Cookman, the Miami defense has allowed at least 32 points in every game this season. But Kelly has yet to prove that his offense can consistently put drives together and put points on the board to put teams away.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza made two more field goals against Michigan two weeks ago to put his season total at six. Freshman receiver Davonte Neal has yet to show his explosive ability on the punt return while Atkinson remains a big threat returning kickoffs for Notre Dame.
EDGE: NOTRE DAME