Players discuss consistent dedication as key to Miami, season
Joe Everett | Thursday, September 28, 2017
Coming off its most complete performance of the year thus far in a 38-18 victory on the road against Michigan State last Saturday, Notre Dame faces a new challenge this week.
Maintaining that excellence.
As it prepares to face Miami (OH) this weekend, the Irish (3-1) aim to not only avoid a letdown, but to recapture the same level of intensity, energy and preparation they showed against the Spartans.
“To play really good football I think is difficult week in and week out in college football,” captain and senior linebacker Drue Tranquil said. “Here at Notre Dame, you get each team’s best, and so I think in any sport, in any competition, to stay at your peak performance and stay at the pinnacle is different. It’s difficult, and it’s hard to sustain. And so to keep that type of energy level and to sustain that is difficult and something that we have to consciously be aware of moving forward, but I think it’s something that we’ve trained and we’ve built since January … I don’t think the message necessarily changes in a week-to-week basis. It’s the same message for us. Our traits of excellence, our routines, our preparation, and then Saturday is about welcoming our opponent to that total preparation.”
The RedHawks (2-2, 1-0 MAC) are led by former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, and are dangerous on both sides of the ball. The Miami defense has allowed just 48 points through four games, has six interceptions and three forced fumbles, and currently ranks 27th in the nation in total defense and 33rd in scoring, letting up just 19 points per game. Quarterback Gus Ragland leads the RedHawks on the offensive side of the ball, as the junior took over the starting job halfway through last season and proceeded to reel off six straight wins, throwing for 1,537 yards, 17 touchdowns and just one interception.
In order to stop Ragland and the RedHawks, senior linebacker and captain Nyles Morgan and the Irish defense will look to recapture last week’s success, as Notre Dame forced a season-high three turnovers against Michigan State — a skill that team has emphasized improvement on from last season.
“You know, Coach Elko is really big on turnovers, and he makes sure that we feel the same way about it, so you know, just putting that implication of every day in practice getting the ball out, punching, stripping,” Morgan said. “We work these mechanics every single day, so you know, it makes sense that it translates over to the field it you work it every single day.”
Tranquil echoed the commitment to improvement seen among the defensive players.
“There’s just guys buying into their role, caring about their role, guys not trying to do it all, that I think some guys felt in previous defenses, and so there’s not a pressure on a guy to make 10 plays in a game,” Tranquil said. “It’s Julian Love having a pick six; it’s Shaun punching the ball out before the end zone; it’s Greer [Martini] causing a fumble and Daelin [Hayes] recovering it. It’s our linebackers fitting their gaps properly, our D-line getting penetration on third-and-short, fourth-and-short, all the small things that add on themselves, and so people just buying into their role and taking great detail to their role.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the same effort and dedication is apparent. Graduate student left tackle Mike McGlinchey emphasized the commitment of senior center Sam Mustipher and the receiving corps to blocking and doing whatever they can to help the team succeed.
“Sam does a great job for us up front, not only just executing and blocking his ass off, but he controls what we do up front,” McGlinchey said. “Every call that we have goes through Sam. He identifies the fronts, he makes sure we’re all on the same page, he’s taking that role with a great responsibility, and he has done an awesome job and is going to keep growing … one of our greatest improvements on offense this year is just noticing how our receivers and how our perimeter players are working and just busting their butt off to get down and stay on people and spring the big plays. I think that we hadn’t seen that before, at least to the extent of what w’re doing right now … ”
This dedication and attention to detail has paid dividends for the Notre Dame offense, as the Irish are a perfect 19-for-19 in red zone efficiency so far this season.
“I think that it comes down to the mindset that we have, when we’re in that part of the field,” McGlinchey said. “We want to put our foot on the gas pedal and put points on the board, and we’ve been successful in doing that thus far, and I think it’s just a great play calling, great execution, and the mindset of not letting anybody come in between us and the end zone.”
At the end of the day, after two straight road games, McGlinchey said that the players are simply looking forward to playing at home again.
“It’s always great to play in Notre Dame Stadium,” McGlinchey said. “Obviously traveling takes a little bit more out of you, longer nights on the road and getting back and traveling back after games is obviously not very fun. Thank God we were on the winning side of it these last two weeks, but yeah, any time you’re back in Notre Dame Stadium, back at home, family coming to town, that’s why we come here. That’s why we play. There’s no place like it in the world, and we’re excited to get back in front of our home fans.”